The story of a domesticated tiger

On December 26th, 1788 the ship, Pitt East Indiaman, which was owned by the East India Company and captained by Edward Manning set sail for St Helena, Benkulen and then China. She reached St Helena in March 1789, Benkulen in July, arriving in China November 1789.

The 'Pitt' near Dover returning from China, 1787. Wikimedia Commons.
The ‘Pitt’ near Dover returning from China, 1787. Wikimedia Commons.

In China, she collected her cargo began the return journey back to England via St Helena, reaching England in August 1790.  There was nothing unusual in journey except that when they arrived in China they acquired an additional piece of cargo – a tiger.

A Tiger Resting: the frontispiece for "Oriental Field Sports", 1805, Samuel Howitt. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
A Tiger Resting: the frontispiece for “Oriental Field Sports”, Samuel Howitt. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

When first brought on board, the tiger was no larger than a puppy of one month to six weeks old, and the ship’s company were determined, if possible, to tame him. The familiarities used with this creature grew with his growth and strengthened with his strength until by the time he was almost a year old he was harmless and as playful as a young kitten.

We have no explanation as to why this tiger was onboard, whether it was destined for a circus in England we cannot say. The animal was described by the newspapers as:

a beautiful young male tiger, about ten or twelve months old and nearly the size of a large mastiff dog.

The Kentish Gazette in its coverage described the animal as being:

a singular instance of the practicability of taming and domesticating wild beasts, a tiger being allowed to be the most ferocious of the savage creatures.

Until he grew too large he lived in the carpenter’s cabin and frequently slept with the sailors in their hammocks, each becoming very fond of the animal.

During the passage home, he was mischievous as most young animals are and frequently stole the sailor’s shoes and hid their clothes, at one time he had in his concealment no less than twenty-five pairs of silk breeches.

He was extremely playful and would often climb about the ship like a cat and perform antics which you would have to have seen to believe.  He was known to play with the dog on board, tossing him in the air and catching him in his paws. The sailors used to make him lie down on the deck and three of them at one time would rest their heads on him using him as a pillow, the tiger never stirred until the sailors had taken their nap.

In return for this familiarity he was known to steal their meat – they became so fond of the creature that he was never really punished. One day during the voyage, however, he also stole the carpenter’s favourite roast beef, the carpenter followed the tiger and retrieved the piece of meat. On this occasion, the animal was punished but apparently ‘took it with the patience of a spaniel’.

Caricature of a sailor. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Caricature of a sailor. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Mr Murray, the purser, having left his cabin door open, the tiger jumped into the cot whilst he was asleep, but not liking his bedfellow Murray hastily jumped out leaving the tiger in full possession of both his cot and his cabin.

When the ship arrived at Gravesend, an old woman came on board with a basket of gingerbread to sell, the tiger set upon the old woman as a cat does when chasing a mouse, seized its opportunity, sprang at her, jumped upon her from behind and threw his paws around her neck. This unexpected attack, on the part of the woman was depicted with every tragic emotion; the basket, gingerbread, fruit and all its contents fell on the deck, which when done, as if conscious of the woman’s situation, he released his prisoner and wandered off to find something else to do in another part of the ship.

Six or eight sailors, part of the men put on board the ship to work her up to the moorings at Deptford, had at this time their portion of fresh beef served to them; and whilst they were debating whether it should be boiled or roasted, a diversity of opinions having taken place, the tiger who lay close by watched for a favourable opportunity, made a sudden spring and seized it, which not only ended the contest, but even saved them the trouble of preparing it, as the tiger it had been observed, preferred his meat  raw rather than boiled or roasted.

A Tiger by Charles Towne, 1818; Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage
A Tiger by Charles Towne; Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage

The above story was reputed to be true and was verified by a gentleman who went on board the Pitt. This gentleman wishing to see this domesticated tiger was led to the carpenter’s cabin, where the tiger lay sleeping at the feet of the carpenter’s wife and sister. Encouraged by the account he was given of this docility, he first ventured to touch him, and after growling a little, which he always did when disturbed from sleep, he patted him in the most familiar manner and then proceeded to put his hand into the tiger’s mouth. The tiger was perfectly content with this.

What became of the tiger we have no idea, but presumably he came part of the circus, but it would be nice to think he remained on board with the carpenter, but it seems unlikely as only a few months later the ship, still under Manning’s command became a convict ship.

Sources Used

Kentish Gazette 31 August 1790

Featured Image

Three Tigers in a Rocky Landscape by Sawrey Gilpin. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.


Eastern Promise: Mughal India and the East India Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image

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

The sad tale of the miser Mary Luhorne

Sailmaker, Isaac; Two Views of an East Indiaman of the Time of William III; National Maritime Museum;
Isaac Sailmaker; Two Views of an East Indiaman of the Time of William III; National Maritime Museum

Mary Manlove married Nicholas Luhorne, some seven years her senior, in 1715 at St Andrews Holborn. There’s nothing especially noteworthy about either of them on the face of it until after the death of Nicholas, a captain in the navy, when the story of Mary’s life after the loss of her husband became particularly tragic as we discovered in a book, titled Lives and anecdotes of misers. What became of Mary…?

In the month of August of the year 1766 there died at Deptford a wretched old woman, in her ninety-sixth year; she was the widow of Captain Luhorne, of the East India service. She survived her husband forty years, and during the whole of that period she lived a most miserly and penurious manner. She not only denied herself the comforts, but even the most common necessaries and decencies of life.

Her clothes were so tattered that she was almost in a state of nudity, and the rags which she hung upon her shoulders were so filthy, and so animated with vermin, that passengers took the precaution to keep at a distance from her in the streets.


She was never known to have lit a fire in her room, and never indulged in the luxury of a candle; she wore no under garments, and had no sheet to cover her at night; she eschewed all the rules of cleanliness, and appeared never so happy as when surrounded with filth and loathsomeness. She would frequently wander along the roads to beg of passers by, and always professed the utmost poverty.

The demon of avarice was so strong within this covetous soul, that she was more than once detected pilfering some trifling articles from her neighbours. One Tuesday the old woman was missed; she had not been observed to leave her room, and she had not been seen in her accustomed walks: Wednesday past, and the neighbours began to suspect that the old miser must be ill; they knocked at her door, but no voice replied; they waited for the morrow; and when the day had far advanced, and she did not appear, they got in at the window. They found her in bed alive, but speechless: with the attention she revived a little, but on Saturday the old woman died.

Her relatives were sent for, who on opening her drawers and chests found securities and gold to the amount of forty thousand pounds, besides clothes of the most sumptuous make and texture, plate, china, jewels and linen. For years she had been surrounded with this wealth and possessed these luxuries, which if rightly used would have served to comfort her old age, and have been the means of relieving the miseries and wants of others; the remembrance would in return have proved great solace to the bed of sickness and death.

Although not very clear, we finally found her burial – 6th August 1766, St Nicholas, Deptford, Kent

Yet although her drawers were thus crammed with costly apparel, which was slowly moldering  and rotting before the effects of time; that wretched object of penury chose rather to wear rags so filthy that it became the imperative duty of her relatives to burn them immediately after her death.

In a life so wretched, so devoid of purpose, so laborious, so self-denying and so debased, we have a striking ample of the littleness of human wishes, and the ignobility of the human mind, when unguided by reason, and when swayed by the despotism of the passions. Her life is indeed, a problem the philosopher will find some difficulty to solve. With forty thousand pounds, no fraction of which she would venture to enjoy – with none for whom affection would prompt her to save – here was a wretched being whose lust for gold and whose propensity to hoard was so overwhelming, that she would beg of strangers in the streets whatever she could lay her hands upon; and although surrounded with an abundance, deprive herself of every enjoyment – of every hope and consolation, that she might gratify this most senseless propensity of her life, of her avarice, as manifested in all its strength at the age of ninety five, and of her lonely and comfortless death bed, we are prompted to exclaims, with the psalmist:

Vanitas Vanitatum omnia vanitas!

(vanity, vanity, all is vanity)

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

A closer look at Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match

Today we are going to have a look at a painting (and its copies) which features Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s cousin, Colonel John Mordaunt.

John Mordaunt was one of the illegitimate sons born to Grace’s aunt Robinaiana Brown when she was the mistress of Charles Mordaunt, 4th Earl of Peterborough. The couple later married, as soon as his first wife had conveniently breathed her last, and managed a legitimate son and heir, Charles Henry who became, in time, the 5th and last Earl of Peterborough.

The elder sons were packed off to India to make their fortunes.

John Mordaunt (Jack to his friends) became a favourite at the court of the Asaf-ud-Daula, Nawab of Oudh in Lucknow, where the two men shared a love for the sport of cock-fighting, a brutal and barbaric activity; John had several gamecocks imported from England for this purpose. And so Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match shows a scene from the Nawab’s court with the two men engaged in this activity. Painted by Johan Zoffany c.1784-86 during his time in India, it was commissioned by Warren Hastings shortly before he resigned as the Governor-General of India. Hastings is not present in the picture but he was in attendance at John Mordaunt’s cock fight on the 5th April 1784, on which this painting is probably based. It is now held in the Tate in London.

Colonel Mordaunt's Cock Match c.1784-6 by Johan Zoffany 1733-1810
Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match c.1784-6 by Johan Zoffany 1733-1810.
© The Tate

Jack Mordaunt was an easy-going and charming fellow, quite the male counterpart to his cousin Grace. He was in charge of the Nawab’s bodyguards and at the head of all the amusements of the court.

So, let’s have a closer look at some of the people in the people in the painting.

In the centre we have Jack Mordaunt, dressed in white and holding out his hands in front of him. Asaf-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Oudh, is gesturing towards Mordaunt. In front of them are their two Cockfighters, Mordaunt’s wearing the red turban and the Nawab’s the white turban. Johan Zoffany placed himself in the painting at the far right hand side (seated, dressed in white and holding a pencil or paintbrush, presumably to sketch the scene unfolding around him) and behind him with a hand on his shoulder is his friend Mr Ozias Humphry R.A.  Next to them, wearing a blue jacket and sitting, holding a hookah, is John Wombwell, an accountant. The man wearing a red coat and standing under the red canopy is Colonel Antoine Louis Polier (a Swiss soldier) and the gentleman seated on the white divan wearing a red military jacket is the Frenchman Colonel Claude Martin. He is talking to Trevor Wheeler who is holding his own gamecock.

In the bottom right hand corner we find Mr Robert Gregory with a white gamecock in his hands (his father disinherited him for cock-fighting, reputedly after seeing an engraving of this painting after he had warned his son of the consequences if he continued to gamble on such fights). The rather plump Lieutenant W. Golding is sitting with his own gamecock and on the floor next to him, holding an empty box, is Mr Gregory’s Cockfighter.

Nawab of Oudh, Asaf-Ud-Daula, Lucknow, India, c.1785-90 by a local artist after Zoffany (via Wikimedia)
Nawab of Oudh, Asaf-ud-Daula, Lucknow, India, c.1785-90 by a local artist after Zoffany (via Wikimedia)

Further details were later revealed. From the Tate’s information on the painting:

After its acquisition by the Tate the painting was cleaned, revealing new subtleties of colour, detail and meaning. The Nawab’s state of sexual arousal, his agitated pose and inclination towards his chief minister and favourite bodyguard Hassan Resa Khan (in the ornate red turban), add an erotic dimension to the nature of the cock fight. The vignette just behind the Nawab shows a bearded Hindu (in turban) fondling a Moslem boy catamite (in the white cap worn by Moslem men), to the outrage of the man in the red turban who must be restrained by a courtier. Lewis Ferdinand Smith recounted that the Nawab ‘has many adopted children, but none of his own’ – despite a harem of 500 beauties – and that towards his wife of sixteen years ‘he has never fulfilled the duties of a husband’ (quoted in Archer, p.144). This painting was perhaps Hastings’s select joke, a memento of his time in India.

Detail from the Tate copy.
Detail from the Tate copy.

One version of this painting was presented to the Nawab (presumably omitting the extra details above) and one to Hastings. Unfortunately the ship in which it was later travelling on its homeward journey to England was lost at sea (Hastings was luckily on another ship) and so Zoffany painted a second version for him, the one pictured above. The Nawab’s copy was lost in the rebellion of 1857 (and is presumed destroyed) but a slightly different version, with less people in it, was given by the Nawab’s successor Ghazi-ud-din Haider to Richard Strachey who was the British Resident at Lucknow from 1815 to 1817. This copy, known as the Ashwick version and also painted by Zoffany, is still in a private collection.

The Ashwick version, from John Zoffany R.A., his Life and Works, 1735-1810.
The Ashwick version, from John Zoffany R.A., his Life and Works, 1735-1810.

Three further versions are in existence, all however painted much later than the original. One is an Indian version of the painting, c.1840 and possibly commissioned by John Elliot, the son of the 1st Earl of Minto who was Governor-General in India in the early nineteenth-century. This painting was sold at Sotheby’s auction house in 2014. Interestingly, the 1st Earl of Minto, Sir Gilbert Elliot, was a contemporary of Colonel John Mordaunt’s and would more than likely have been aware of his Scottish ancestry. Sir Gilbert’s wife descended from the same Dalrymple family as Grace, and his sons were educated by the Scottish historian David Hume who was certainly aware of the Brown’s of Blackburn in Berwickshire from which both Jack Mordaunt and Grace were descended on their respective mothers’ side.

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

An Indian artist in Lucknow, c.1800, made a reasonably faithful copy of Zoffany’s original. This is now in the Harvard Art Museum.

© President and Fellows of Harvard College Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Stuart Cary Welch Collection, Gift of Edith I. Welch in memory of Stuart Cary Welch
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Stuart Cary Welch Collection, Gift of Edith I. Welch in memory of Stuart Cary Welch

Lastly, a version which was again painted by a Lucknow artist, c.1830-35 and held by the British Library.

Painting of Asaf al-Daula (the Nawab of Awadh 1775-97) at a cock-fight, by a Lucknow artist, c. 1830-35. © The British Library
Painting of Asaf al-Daula (the Nawab of Awadh 1775-97) at a cock-fight, by a Lucknow artist, c. 1830-35.
© The British Library

We can’t conclude this without pointing out the similarity in appearance between Colonel John Mordaunt and his cousin Grace Dalrymple Elliott. Both were tall and slender, and we think we can see a distinct likeness in the profiles of their two faces. Do our readers agree?

Colonel Mordaunt's Cock Match c.1784-6 by Johan Zoffany 1733-1810


You can find out more about Grace’s life and adventures and Colonel John Mordaunt and his time in India in our book.

Fanny Williams and the Amherst family of Kent

FASHIONABLE ANECDOTE, at present only whispered in the POLITE CIRCLES.

Some years ago, the Lady of a noble Lord, who once held a high military post, and greatly distinguished himself in a former war, received a small basket by an unknown hand, which, on being opened, was found to contain a female child, with a letter addressed to the lady, written in a female hand, expressing the high opinion the writer entertained of her Ladyship’s liberality, and particularly from personal knowledge of her humanity. Appealing to it, for protection of the unknown infant, whose existence, with that of the mother’s, depended on her Ladyship.  A bank-note was inclosed for a considerable amount. The child was ordered to be taken all possible care of, and has been from that time attended and educated in no other manner than if she had been the daughter of the noble Lord and his Lady.

The young lady has been introduced at court, and is highly esteemed by all whom she is known to, and possesses, in the highest degree, the affections of her friends and protectress: she is now about eighteen years of age, and till within a few days, the history of her birth and parents were unknown to all but the parents themselves, and a confidential servant.

It however now appears, her father is a peer of Ireland, her mother the sister to a peer; they managed their tendresse with so much dexterity, that the circumstance of this beautiful gage de l’amour would ever have remained unknown; but the noble Lord her father, who was soon after married to another lady, and that lady being dead, his Lordship, perhaps, feeling remorse for his former unkind treatment of this young lady, who has remained unmarried; which event is about to take place. The have claimed their daughter from Lady ______, to whom the whole circumstance has been related, and whom, we hear, is nearly inconsolable for the loss she is about to sustain, in parting from her amiable and charming favourite.

[We insert this article with the greater confidence, as the first part of this story is a fact well known to have happened to Lady Am___st.]

Portrait of Elizabeth, Lady Amherst (1740-1830) (nee Elizabeth Cary) by Joshua Reynolds via Wikimedia

Lady Amherst, or Baroness Amherst of Holmesdale, formerly Miss Elizabeth Cary, was the second wife of Jeffrey Amherst, Baron Amherst, who was, at the time this article was written, Captain and Colonel of The Queen’s Troop of Horse Guards. She was born around 1740 to Lt-General the Honourable George Cary (son of the 6th Viscount Falkland) and his wife Isabella (nee Ingram).

The little foundling was given the name Fanny Williams and, as the Amherst’s had no children of their own, was brought up by them and treated in every way as their own daughter.  Fanny Burney recounted meeting the girl in 1791:

I was pleased in seeing Miss Fanny Williams, as she is called, the young person who was left an infant at the door of Lady Amherst, and who is reputed to be the daughter of every woman of rank whose character, at that date, was susceptible of suspicion. She looks a modest and pretty young creature, and Lady Amherst brings her up with great kindness and propriety.

NPG 150,Jeffrey Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst,by Thomas Gainsborough
Jeffrey Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst by Thomas Gainsborough
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Jeffrey Amherst, a ruthless and cruel man, was behind the attempt to introduce smallpox amongst the native Indians in America with infected blankets during the Anglo-Indian war.

In two sources Jeffrey Amherst is noted as having a natural son, the ODNB saying he was given the same name as his father and rose to become a Major General in the army, born around 1752 and dying in 1815. Jane Dalison had married Baron Amherst in 1753 (a year or so after the birth of his illegitimate son) but reportedly went insane whilst her husband travelled overseas with the army. She died in 1765 and two years later he married Elizabeth Cary.

2008_EX02_01 012

William Amherst (1732-1791)

Young Jeffrey was brought up by his aunt, Elizabeth Thomas. There is, however, another Amherst floating around, William Kerrill Amherst, whose unusual second name ties him in to the same family as Jeffrey Amherst but for whom no parentage is given.

Kerrill was the maiden name of Jeffrey Amherst’s mother, Elizabeth, and, by her husband who was yet another Jeffrey, she had four surviving sons:

Sackville Amherst (1715-1763) – a lawyer who ran up debts and caused his relatives much consternation by his scandalous behaviour

Jeffrey Amherst (1717-1797)

John Amherst (1718-1778) – Vice Admiral of the White

William Amherst (1732-1791)

William Kerrill Amherst (c.1761-1792) was sent out to Bengal in India as a writer for the East India Company in 1778. As if his middle name wasn’t clue enough to his ancestry, he wrote to the artist Ozias Humphry in 1785, when the latter arrived in India, saying he was anxious that they should correspond as they shared acquaintances in Sevenoaks, Kent (where Jeffrey Amherst had his estate, Montreal) and a love of the area. Certainly he was the son of one of the four brothers.

Montreal Park, the seat of Jeffrey Amherst, from a 1777 engraving
Montreal Park, the seat of Jeffrey Amherst, from a 1777 engraving

John and Sackville died without any legitimate heirs; William married Elizabeth Paterson and had three children, Elizabeth Frances, Harriet and William Pitt Amherst.  When both William and Elizabeth died young their children were taken into the household of Baron Amherst and brought up with young Fanny Williams, William Pitt Amherst becoming the heir to his uncle and the baronetcy.

Elizabeth Frances thought of Fanny as her sister, and indeed she may well have been.  It was known that the forename of the father could be bestowed on the child as a surname, in a similar way to that which Charlotte Williams, a subject of one of our former blogs, took the forename of her father William Cavendish, the 5th Duke of Devonshire, as her surname. Was Fanny then the natural daughter of William Amherst, brought up by her aunt Lady Amherst in much the same way that Baron Amherst’s natural son had been brought up by his own aunt, Elizabeth Thomas?

William Kerrill Amherst died on the 20th April, 1792, in India.

When Lord Amherst wrote his will in 1794 he did not omit to mention Fanny and left her a sizeable legacy; he provided for her by a thousand pounds in stock and asked his wife to supply proper mourning for her on his decease. No son, illegitimate or otherwise, was named in his will. He died three years later.

On the 23rd May, 1799, Fanny married Charles Pinfold, Esquire, at St. Marylebone Church, by licence, only to sadly die in childbirth just over a year and a half later (her son, Charles, did survive).


Sources used:

Stamford Mercury, 19th May 1786

The rising country: the Hale-Amherst correspondence, 1799-1825, Champlain Society, 2002

Diary and Letters of Madame d’Arblay, edited by her niece, Charlotte Barrett, vol. iii – 1788 to 1796

Royal Academy of Arts Collection, Letters of William K Amherst to Ozias Humphry

Header image: Montreal, near Sevenoaks, Kent, the seat of Lord Amherst of Holmsdale, McCord Museum