The clandestine marriages of George III’s brothers…and the Royal Marriage Act of 1772

Anne, Duchess of Cumberland, Thomas Gainsborough – Royal Collection Object 400945

In 1772 it was forbidden that any descendent of King George II aged under 25 years should marry without the express consent of the monarch. Any one over that age was required to provide a year’s notice of their intentions to the Privy Council in writing- then they had to keep their fingers cross that the Houses of Lords and Commons had no objection. Failure to comply made any marriage null and void. The 1772 Act was replaced in 2011 with the Perth Agreement which means that only the first six people in line to the throne need to get the monarch’s permission for a marriage.

The reasons behind the act were very straight forward – the royal family was being brought into disrepute George III’s brother married beneath him. Henry Duke of Cumberland married Anne Horton née Lutterall on 2 October 1771. She was the daughter of an MP and more importantly a commoner. Henry told his brother in November that he was married and was banished as a direct consequence.

It wasn’t the first time that Henry had managed to get himself tangled up with a woman – in 1769 there were rumours that he married Olivia Wilmot and fathered a daughter named after her mother. Olivia junior later married John Thomas Serres and took to styling herself Princess Olive of Cumberland- although that was nothing compared to the scandal of a court case that took place a hundred years after the event. Cumberland was also sued by Lord Grosvenor for adultery and had to pay £10, 000 damages.

As though that wasn’t bad enough once George, who was a devoted husband and father of 15 children, made his act law, another of his brothers, William the Duke of Gloucester had to own up that he had been clandestinely married for six years to Maria, the dowager Countess of Waldegrave. She was the illegitimate daughter of Sir Edward Walpole. George had already heard rumours of the liaison but didn’t know that the pair had been married in secret by Maria’s chaplain. He’d sent William on a series of diplomatic missions to try and break up the romance. What forced William to tell his brother was the fact that Maria became pregnant. Their daughter Sophia was born at the end of May 1773 just a short while after the Privy Council held up the validity of the secret marriage. The couple had two more children including a second daughter who died during infancy. I’d like to tell you that despite all the angst that the couple lived happily ever after – sadly William, a true Hanoverian, began an affair with one of his wife’s ladies in waiting and had an illegitimate daughter – Maria was not amused but found herself living in a household alongside with her husband’s mistress.

Olivia Wilmot -Princess Olive of Cumberland’s daughter married John Serres, a marine painter to George III – the marriage not successful: she took many lovers, he kept her short of cash and they got themselves into debt. Eventually the pair divorced. Olive wrote to the Prince Regent (who had his own brush with the 1772 Marriage Act when he married the Catholic widow Maria Fitzherbert in a secret and illegal ceremony rendering the marriage null and void under the terms of the 1772 act.) Olive initially claimed that she was the natural daughter of the Duke of Cumberland. The story underwent a revision three years later in 1820 when she became the daughter of a Polish princess who was legally married to the duke despite the fact that she never came to England! By 1844 Olive’s daughter Lavinia Ryves was trying to extract cash from George III’s will and in 1866 the case went to court. She presented three sets of documents which were confiscated at the end of the case and which can now be viewed in the National Archives at Kew having been deemed forgeries.

Lavinia’s barrister also made the claim that George IV ought not to have been king and that Queen Victoria should not be queen because George III was actually married to Hannah Lightfoot rather than Queen Caroline. The story had been brewing for a very long time. Which was pretty impressive given that there was only one whisper of scandal in a private letter during George III’s life – Walpole described the monarch as ‘chaste’ unlike his grandfather and great grandfather or even his sons.

Ashdown-Hill, John, Royal Marriage Secrets: Consorts and Concubines, Bigamists and Bastards

https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C5895913

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Dictionary_of_National_Biography,_1885-1900/Serres,_Olivia

From mandrake to secret passages, silk beds in boxes and 99 year leases – the delights of Calke Abbey

Calke Abbey near Melbourne in Derbyshire is one of my favourite National Trust properties ever! On Friday we took the opportunity to visit it before the summer holiday. We still have no desire to join the crowds but have missed our adventures to stately stacks during the last two and a half years.

We began by exploring the house which from the outside isn’t much to shout about unless you like eighteenth century symmetrical stately stacks with columns and big windows. The house has become slightly tidier across the years we’ve been visiting but its delight is the sensation of walking into a house that hasn’t been touched – the wall paper is peeling, there’re piles of chairs in various states of disrepair, trunks and collections of seashells, seals, Victorian birds if you’re into that sort of thing and old papers – the Harpurs were once one of the richest families in Derbyshire but the Harpur-Crewes were clearly amongst the most eccentric. Not only did they wish to provide for the education of their tenants, they seem to have loved their wives, were passionate about their natural history and never threw anything away. Whilst the house isn’t as dark, dirty or as dusty as it used to be but it’s still pleasingly ramshackle and demonstrates what happened to the aristocracy when they could no longer afford a platoon of staff to maintain order and could no longer afford the lifestyle or the house.

On this occasion we discovered that the double thickness walls in the eighteenth century hall were not only to permit servants to move unseen but also to ensure that there was a symmetry to the grand residence – though you’d have thought they’d have considered a staircase to the rather elegant new rooms when they planned their mansion and not had to add one on later. There’s even a panel that opens to reveal a secret entrance – makes you wonder what might be lurking undiscovered in the skeleton of the house – and of course, there was a skeleton unearthed in the courtyard several years ago.

Then there’s the glorious silk bed – amidst the layers of history were two wooden chests, and inside, rolled not folded, was Lady Caroline Manners wedding present from Princess Anne, the daughter of King George II. The bed hangings were made for George I in about 1715 and as beautiful as the day they were carefully wrapped up and placed in the boxes where they lay forgotten for so many years. Obviously Caroline didn’t appreciate the gift or had no need for fancy bed hanging. Apparently there are coiled peacock feathers in the embroidered butterfly wings. For those of you who want technical terms rather than me describing beautiful embroidery – its a Palladian state bed which was apparently an essential household item…I’m sure we’ve all got one somewhere ….

Which leads us to the monastic element of the equation – Calke was never an abbey – priory is pushing it as well. It would perhaps best be described as a cell attached to Repton. When the monks of Repton realised what Cromwell was up to prior to the dissolution of the monasteries they let Calke to a certain John Prest – on a 99 year lease. It wasn’t straight forward and Thomas was not best pleased. Suffice it to say that it was only thanks to Cromwell’s demise that matters didn’t get out of hand and Calke ended up as a Tudor manor with a courtyard and a gateway. Everything you can see today was wrapped round the Elizabethan mansion which is why the stairs are slightly odd, there’s secret passages between the rooms and a blocked up entrance for a coach to drive through. The tour of the house finishes with a climb through the brick lined tunnels that the servants used so that they didn’t blight the landscape with their presence before you emerge in the brew house and back out into the sunlight.

The gardens are some distance from the house and to be honest I usually see them in the autumn so it was rather wonderful to find the walled gardens filled with flowers and a rather surprising mandrake nestling amongst the feverfew. Then there was time to see the deer lounging beneath various trees and inspect the grotto -again every one should have one, though the one at Calke isn’t going to win an RHS medal any time soon. Rather like the house it’s seen better days but has its charm for all of that and is rather more fun than some of the spotless but rather cold eighteenth century properties that can be found elsewhere.

George III and Hannah Lightfoot

Oil painting on canvas, Called Hannah Lightfoot, Mrs Axford (1730-c.1759), ‘The Fair Quakeress’, by Sir Joshua Reynolds (Plympton 1723 – London 1792), circa 1756. A painted oval half-length portrait of a young woman, turned to the right, gazing to the right, brown hair dressed back with a pink ribbon, in white satin dress edged with lace and decorated with pink bows, with a pink ribbon frill around her neck.

Hannah Lightfoot, if you believe these things, was the mistress of George, Prince of Wales. She was born in 1730, the daughter of a shoemaker in Wapping. Three or so years later her father died and she was adopted by her uncle Henry Wheeler, a linen draper. So far so good. Hannah, a quaker, married clandestinely outside the Friends. it wasn’t long before she discovered her error and fled her husband, a man named Isaac Axford. This was 1755. There was nothing more heard of Hannah and in 1759 Isaac remarried. he either thought she was dead or since Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act was passed in 1753 he believed that the union was invalid – clandestine marriages being banned at that time.

And then we start moving into the realms of gossip and conspiracy. Wheeler’s merchandise was sold at St James’ Market and it just so happens that the Young Prince of Wales noticed her there…or at a ball…take your pick. The Public Advertiser of 7 September 1770 calls her the ‘Fair Quaker’ and it suggests that she and the Prince of Wales were having an affair. In some versions of the story George persuaded her to marry Axford and in other versions she just marries George and moves to Peckham. In 1866 Mrs Lavinia Ryves went to court claiming that her mother was the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Cumberland – the brother of George III. Her mother Olive, claimed that George III left her £15,000 as his niece. The claim was thrown out. More documents appeared including a marriage between George and Hannah in 1759 – in two different places! The first at Kew Chapel and the following month, May, in Peckham. The officiant on both occasions was James Wilmot.

There were two sons and a daughter.

And now for the conspiracy theories! in 1845 the parish records of St Anne’s Chapel Kew were stolen and later found in the Thames…without the records. And in Carmarthen the grave of Charlotte Dalton, the grand daughter of Hannah perhaps explains the presence of the George III pipe organ – made for the king in a church with no known royal connections. There was a television programme about it in the 1990s but in truth the genuine family history of the family purporting to be that of George III is a long way distant from royalty.

Tendered, Mary L., The Fair Quaker Hannah Lightfoot and Her Relations with George III (London: 1910)

Lindsay, John, The Lovely Quaker, (London, 1939)

And then we start moving into the mists

Cumberland rum Nicky and rum butter

Not sure how festive it is – but we have Cumberland rum Nicky at Christmas! Essentially it’s a tray bake with a pastry bottom and a lattice top. The middle is made from butter, ginger, brown sugar, rum and dates. I think it should probably be a tart but I’ve always made it as a tray bake for ease of cutting. Having now done a little digging it is clear that the origins of the name have been obscured although there is a theory that the top layer pastry was “nicked” to create the lattice.

The ingredients originate from the 18th Century when the Cumbrian port of Whitehaven was part of the ‘triangular trade’ – shipping sugar, rum and ginger in from the Caribbean, taking English cloth to West Africa and slaves from there to North America. Maryport and Workington were also thriving ports at this time.

Whitehaven rum was apparently very popular and it was in the 18th century that rum butter made it’s appearance – butter, sugar and rum. There seems to have been a fair amount of tax avoidance in Cumbria in the eighteenth century as well – rum smuggling was part of the local scene.

“He who is occasionally obeyed” remembers being sent, as a child, by his nana at Christmas to fetch a quarter bottle of rum from a shop close to her house for the treat to be made. He also remembers the butter and sugar being placed on the hearth to melt.

It should be added that I’m not wildly keen on rum butter and much prefer a good helping of vanilla ice cream. It’s not the least calorific or most healthy pudding I’ve ever served but having said that it’s definitely a once a year treat.

Illegitimate but loyal – the FitzJames family

220px-Arabella_ChurchillArabella Churchill was the mistress of the Duke of York for about ten years as well as being one of Anne Hyde’s ladies-in-waiting.  Arabella had four children by James.

Henrietta was the eldest of the siblings.  She married Henry Waldegrave, the son of a cavalier in 1683.  He was the Comptroller of James’ household.  Unlike her legitimate half-siblings Henrietta was raised as a Catholic and accompanied her father into exile along with Henry Waldegrave who died the following year.  She eventually married for a second time to Piers Butler, Viscount Galmoye but not before she’d had a fling with one of Ireland’s  wild geese. Through her first marriage she is an ancestor of Princess Diana.

Henrietta’s brother James, the most famous of Arabella’s FitzJames children, was raised in France and entered the service of Louis XIV.  He returned to England where he became an officer in the Blues at his father’s instigation.  In fact he was due to replace the protestant Earl of Oxford – an example of James’ strategy of giving key roles to Catholics – a strategy which helped to trigger the Glorious Revolution of 1688.  When men like John Churchill deserted James at Salisbury and went over to William of Orange, James remained loyal to his father and went to Ireland where the fight for the Crown continued before going into exile in France where he rejoined Louis XIV’s army.  His was a complicated life given that he found himself on the opposite side to his uncle, John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough.  Henry became a marshal in the french army and counselled his father not to trust John Churchill.  At one point he was captured by another his Churchill uncles and only released when exchanged with a French prisoner.  He became the Duke of Berwick but its a Jacobite title rather than one recognised by the English peerage.  He was killed in 1733, aged 63, by a passing cannon ball having refused to take part in the Jacobite rising of 1715. The Dukedom of Alba continued as a Spanish title.

A second Fitzjames boy, Henry, died in 1702 in France whilst the youngest FitzJames sibling, called Arabella born in 1674 opted to become a nun in Pontoise.  She took the name Ignatia.

Arabella Churchill married Charles Godfrey circa 1674.  She went on to have forty years of happy married life and three more children.  Godfrey was a colonel and a Whig – so anti-Jacobite.  In an already complicated family it is perhaps not surprising to learn that the FitzJames’ stepfather was one of the first men to join with William of Orange.  He would serve in various positions within the royal household as well as becoming an MP. Arabella outlived him by some sixteen years dying at the age of eighty in 1730.

 

John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough – a smooth man

220px-John_Churchill_Marlborough_porträtterad_av_Adriaen_van_der_Werff_(1659-1722)Winston Churchill, from Devon, was a Cavalier – which wasn’t good news for John born in 1650 as Winston had spent the family money on the king.  However, John received an education at St Paul’s before acquiring a job as a page in the household of the Duke of York.  The methodology was very simply – his sister Arabella was one of James’ ladies.  This was despite the fact that she was deemed a rather plain girl who was a baton the thin side.   In fact there were four little FitzJames’ in the family.

John rose under the patronage of James, then Duke of York but was still short of cash.  This was remedied by a distant relation of his – Barbara Villiers – who also happened to be one of Charles II’s ladies.  Now, Barbara was not what be described as monogamous.  In 1667 when she became pregnant Charles denied paternity as he claimed that he hadn’t been anywhere near the lady at the required time.  Anyway, John was apparently rather a good looking young man and apparently Barbara wasn’t expecting a royal visit so retired for the evening with John only for the king to come a knocking on her door – yes, its the classic lover under the bed story.  Only in this instance to save the lady’s “honour” and possibly his own hide John made a rather daring leap from a first floor window.  Barbara very gratefully handed over £5000.  There is another version of the story that sent John scurrying for a handy cupboard where the king discovered him.. John threw himself to his knees.  Charles is said to have called John a “rascal” but pardoned him his actions because he knew the young man only did it for his “bread.”  Choose the version you prefer.  It is true that Barbara was generous with her young men.

For John though advancement came through his soldiering and his bride.  Young Sarah Jennings came from St Albans.  She came to court when she was about thirteen and living as she did in the household of the Duke of York came into contact with John who fell head over heels in love with the striking red head.  There was a secret marriage – his family required him to marry an heiress but Sarah’s family was not only large it had also been impoverished during the civil war.  The pair only confessed their marriage when Sarah became obviously pregnant.

Meanwhile Sarah had shown Princess Anne kindness during the Earl of Mulgrave scandal and Anne known for her somewhat obsessive friendships drew closer to Sarah.  Sarah’s influence together with Churchill’s victories during the Spanish War of Succession made the couple the wealthiest ex-commoners in the land.  When Sarah Churchill was finally banished from court in 1710 they were drawing an enormous £64,000 from the public purse and their total income was somewhere in the region of £94,000.

Holmes, Richard. (2009)  Marlborough:  Britain’s Greatest General: England’s Fragile Genius

The Butler did it!

Paxton House.jpgPaxton House in Berwickshire, pictured here from the gardens to the rear of the property, is a Regency delight stuffed with Chippendale furniture.  It was built by Patrick Home who had to pay for the design of the house by John Adam (younger brother of Robert), the quarrying, dressing and building of his delightfully symmetrical home a few miles from Berwick.  Ironically having built it he never actually lived in it.

The Homes are an ancient – and somewhat unlucky- border family. This is perhaps testified by the fact that between 1413 and 1576 every eldest son of the Home family died either in battle or as a prisoner in English hands.  The house even boasts a section of the so-called Flodden Banner that covered the bodies of Lord Home and his oldest son.   Though of course Paxton House hadn’t been built at that point.  In fact it wouldn’t be started until 1755.

The Home family managed to get itself into even deeper trouble in 1715 when it supported the Jacobite cause. Sir George Home of Wedderburn, his brother and his son managed to get caught at the Battle of Preston. Although George’s life was spared he was still guilty of treason so lost the family estate.  However, a cousin called Ninian was able to demonstrate that George owed him so much money that the estate was effectively mortgaged to him – resulting in its return to the family.  As these things tend to be, inheritance proved complicated.  Ninian had returned the property to George but none of George’s sons had legitimate heirs.  There were daughters.  Ninian intended that his son should marry George’s daughter Margaret but the son preferred Margaret’s younger sister.  Ninian having been widowed married Margaret himself…with me so far?  He was approximately thirty years older than his bride but that didn’t stop him fathering a second rather large family of whom the builder of Paxton House – Patrick- was the eldest surviving son.

Ninian died.  Margaret became responsible for her family’s upbringing.  Patrick was to be a lawyer. She sent him to be educated in Leipzig.  From there he went to Frederick the Great’s court, fell in love and was ordered to take the grand tour by his mother principally because the only way for Patrick to marry the girl he loved was to settle in Germany and Margaret did not want the family money to leave the country.

Whilst Patrick was touring Europe the family butler decided to relieve the family of the rent which was kept in a locked cabinet beneath Lady Home’s bed in her home at Linthill near Eyemouth.  The cabinet is now at Paxton House. Patrick’s mother was in the habit of carefully locking her chamber door before retiring to bed.  She also kept the keys to the cabinet under her pillow.

The butler, a man by the name of Norman Ross, knew how the tumbler mechanism for the lock to her bedroom worked.  He let himself in having stopped the lock by choking it with cherry stones, hid until Lady Home retired for the night and waited until she was asleep.  There was then the small matter of retrieving the keys from beneath her pillow.

Martin, David, 1737-1797; Margaret Home (d.1751), Lady BillieUnfortunately Margaret pictured above (image accessed from https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/margaret-home-d-1751-lady-billie-210935)  awoke.  The butler panicked and stabbed his employer with a knife – that he either had about him or which was upon the night stand depending on the source.  Margaret managed to summon help and survived long enough to name her murderer who had escaped through a window as the servants arrived on the scene.  She died on August 16 1751- the attack having happened on the night of the 12th.  Other accounts suggest that Margaret survived only two days.  In either event the murder is deemed to have occurred on the 12th.

Ross was arrested the following day and conveyed to Edinburgh where he was tried.  Prior to his execution he had his right hand chopped off.  He was also hanged in chains – one of the last men to suffer this fate.  Essentially his body was tarred and hanged in a cage where it was left to decompose. The severed hand was placed on top of the gallows.  Scottish law and English law differed in the treatment of Ross.  Under English law he would have been found guilty of petty treason but under Scottish law it was murder plain and simple.  The additional punishment reflected the fact that bond between servant and employer had been broken.  Ross was a trusted member of the household and is described in texts of the time as Margaret Home’s “confidential servant.”

It was probably as a consequence his dramatic return home that Patrick forgot to empty his travelling chest – a large and ornate piece of furniture.  It eventually languished in Paxton House for the next two hundred  and fifty years – consequentially the house has some very fine mid eighteenth century gentlemen’s costumes on display.

In 1755 Patrick began to build the house with a view to marrying the young woman he’d fallen in love with when he was twenty-two.  Unfortunately Sophie de Brandt, his sweetheart, died before the house was finished.  Patrick never furnished the house – that task fell to his cousin, another Ninian Home, when Patrick sold him the house in 1773 having inherited Wedderburn Castle from his uncle.

I loved Paxton House – a hidden gem. It’s part of the Historic Houses Association and entry to the house is by tour.  I’d have to say as much as I enjoyed the history I also enjoyed spotting the appropriately regency clad teddy bears that are part of the children’s trail! There’s no image of the Flodden Banner as photography is not permitted in the house.

 

The Scots Magazine   – Volume 13 – Page 405

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=YoE4AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA355&lpg=PA355&dq=murder+of+margaret+Home,+Lady+Billie+1751&source=bl&ots=WLN4vs7WI0&sig=ACfU3U0WxBupL5x7hwUG_E4yhfc5OQ8Klg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjD89us1eniAhW5XRUIHUHPDpE4ChDoATABegQICRAB#v=onepage&q=murder%20of%20margaret%20Home%2C%20Lady%20Billie%201751&f=false

Caroline of Ansbach – how to get your husband to do what you want him to do!

Caroline of Ansbach

I came across an old Jean Plaidy novel – I haven’t read one for years but, unusually, being short of a book I started reading and am hooked – I may even start to take a more lively interest in the Hanoverians so long as I don’t get mired in Whigs and Tories.

Caroline was George II’s wife.   The thing that’s impossible to escape in the fictional account is that Caroline spends a lot of time pretending to be rather dim whilst actually manipulating her husband, George II, in terms of political decision making.

Inevitably I’ve gone off to the history books to find out more. George I and George, then Prince of Wales, had an almighty row and as a consequence George and Caroline were sent away from court.  Even worse Caroline was separated from her daughters.  She’d already had to leave her son Frederick in Hanover when the family came to England in 1714.

George I died in 1727  at which point George II became king. Caroline formed an alliance with Walpole who held a substantial majority in Parliament.  Initially they formed an alliance about the amount that the civil list would pay.  During the rest of her life  they persuaded the king to do what Walpole wanted.  This meant that Caroline had some sort of say in what happened in England.  Lord Hervey, Walpole’s political opponent cultivated the king’s mistress and discovered that it didn’t get him very far at all.

Caroline arrived in England as Princess of Wales when George, Elector of Hanover became king of England in 1714.  She immediately became the most important woman at court because George I was short of a queen.  George I had locked his wife, Sophia Dorothea of Celle, (who was also George’s first cousin)  in Ahlden Castle.  She’d been there since 1694  on account of her affair with  Count von Königsmarck.  The count was rather more unfortunate – his body was apparently disposed of in a river. Sophia Dorothea died in 1726.  George did bring his half sister and his mistress with him but they hardly counted in terms of the court scene, even though they did gain the names of the Elephant and the Maypole based on their looks.

Initially her court was almost separate from that of her husband – this wasn’t unusually what was different was that she filled it with intellectuals.  This must have come as a bit of a surprise after Queens Mary and Anne who weren’t known for their brains.  She  deliberately sought out Sir Issac Newton and was friends with Jonathan Swift.  She also set about trying to improve the lives of the people of England. In 1722 she had all of her children inoculated against small pox – using a cow pox vaccine making the whole thing wildly fashionable.  I’m less sure how warmly I feel about the fact that she had all the foundlings in London’s Foundling hospital inoculated before her own children.

Lucy Worsley says that she was the cleverest queen consort to sit on the throne.  Walpole commented that he’d taken the “right sow by the ear” when he chose to work with her.  Certainly when George went back to Hanover he trusted her sufficiently for her to rule as regent, during which time she wanted a closer look at the penal code of the time.  She was liberal in thought and behaviour and demonstrated compassion not only to the country’s imprisoned masses but also tried to plead leniency for the Jacobites in 1715.

Most important of all was that she was able to soothe George’s ruffled feathers, make him believe her words were his ideas and withstand his rudeness to her in public.  Whilst she had her husband fooled the public weren’t so easily hoodwinked:

You may strut, dapper George but ’twill all be in vain:

We know ’tis Queen Carline, not you, that reign.

The truth was that everyone apart from her husband knew that she was an intelligent and able consort.

Was she a successful queen?  The terms by which queen consorts are judged are not by their capacity to manipulate their spouses but by the children they produce.  Caroline was pregnant on at least ten occasions and had eight children. She’d already had a son and three daughters by the time she became Princess of Wales.  Her favourite son was William whom history calls Butcher Cumberland.  Together with her husband she didn’t much like her eldest son Frederick and was horrible to both him and his wife continuing a Hanoverian traction that would be maintained throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Caroline who had become rather overweight in later years died in November 1737 from a strangulated bowel  that was in part the product of poor treatment after the birth of her youngest child.  She underwent several rather unpleasant operations without any painkillers, although she did apparently find the fact that her surgeon managed to set his wig on fire with a candle rather amusing. She finally died  whilst holding her husband’s hand.

 

George II announced that no other woman he knew was fit to buckle her shoe – though that hadn’t stopped him from having many mistresses during their marriage or telling Caroline that she should love one mistress because the mistress loved him.

Dennison, Mathew. The First Iron Lady

http://www.lucyworsley.com/poor-queen-caroline-and-her-horrible-death/

 

The sad story of an actress and a valet

1st duke of devoshire.jpgWhen the First Duke of Devonshire (pictured left) was sixty-five, suffering from gout, troubled by his stretched finances (too much spent on the gee gees at Newmarket and rebuilding Chatsworth) and his popularity with Queen Anne was waining he found consolation in the daughter of his valet.

Mary Ann Campion had been born in 1687- the year before the first duke added his name to the document that invited William of Orange to invade.  She was just seventeen when she became pregnant – a case of droit de signeur if there ever was one!

Mary Ann was an actress, or at any rate she sang, danced and played the harpsichord.  She’d first appeared on stage when she was just eleven so it may be that she had natural talent rather than a reliance on eye-brow raising patronage. By 1703 she was singing in Italian, although some of the songs she were singing would, not by any account, be deemed suitable for a thirteen-year-old today, even a “little canary bird.”

History records her last public performance as the 14th March 1704.  The reason behind this was that the duke wished her to leave the stage.  He  set her up in London in a property known in Bolton Street, St. Martin in the Fields – where she gave birth to a daughter named after her mother.  The baby appears to have been healthy but Mary Ann either had a difficult birth or was already unwell.  She made her will on the 23r April 1706.  On the 16th May 1706 Mary died of something described as a “hectic fever.”

The duke was unfashionably grief stricken.  Although he didn’t attend the funeral he had his mistress’s remains interred at the church near Latimers in Buckinghamshire where he owned a house and where other members of his family were buried.  He even went so far as to put a monument up in her memory – enjoining readers to remember that the lovely young woman had a virtuous mind and that although her birth was lowly she had been a very sincere person more suited to nobility.

Mary Ann left her house to her daughter along with her jewellery and plate.  The duke left his daughter £10,000.

It would be nice to know what happened to Mary Ann Cavendish.

 Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim, Edward A. Langhans A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers

 

Bonnie Prince Charlie from Carlisle to Derby and back again…what the papers thought.

 

bonnie prince charlieI keep coming back to the Bonnie Prince probably because there is so much printed material available one way and another not to mention rather beautiful tableware and tall tales.  In the past it was assumed that regional newspapers of the period reflected a Londoncentric viewpoint.  This was what people wanted to read – with a side interest in the local crime rates, corresponding descriptions of executions and the occasional hideous accident.

In 1745 the press presented a very anti-Jacobite stance.  There were headlines like “No Popery” and “No Pretender.” The London Gazette helpfully announced Bonnie Prince Charlie’s landing in Scotland with a £30,00 reward for his capture whilst the Newcastle Courant, one of the oldest regional papers (I think) provided a sketch map of the Battle of Colloden.  The papers were so wholeheartedly Hanoverian that anything Scottish came almost to be regarded as a political and social threat to order and safety.  This was a viewpoint that would last for some time afterwards.  Harris’s article on Jacobitism identifies the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 as a news event of the kind with which we are all too familiar today – the papers ceased to report events they actively sort out scoops and battled one another to be first with a new angle or event.

1745 etchingSatirists made the point that the Jacobites were in league with the pope and being manipulated by the French.  This particular example is in the hands of the British Museum.  Another cartoon entitled The Highland Visitors depicts the Scots indulging in a spot of light plundering.  To be fair the satirists were more than happy to point a finger at General Cope when he arrived in Berwick with the news of his defeat following Prestonpans and in the aftermath  “Butcher Cumberland” was not presented in a warm or friendly light as this cartoon shows with Britannia weighing mercy and butchery:britannia weighing mercy and butchery

The figures involved were presented in tabloid dimensions.  This stereotyping was something that had grown out of the broadsheets and ballads of earlier centuries.  There is even an article on anti-Scottishness in political prints of the period and the use of prints to depict stereotypical Scots including the blue bonnet which the Young Pretender can be seen wearing at the start of this post.  Even more interestingly it was only in 1745 that tartan became synonymous with Scottishness as, I am sad to say, did being unwashed and eating oats.  Having said that the counter balance was the concept of Highland savagery – making the gentrified Hanoverians look somewhat sissy in contrast.  Bonnie Prince Charlie might have been the representative of popery, tyranny and chaos but he was also the brave “highland laddie” that grew from his extended tour of the Scottish Highlands.

But back to the papers of the day – The Northampton Mercury, as averse to the Derby Mercury, took the unprecedented steps of hiring couriers so that they could beat the London papers in reporting Bonnie Prince Charlie’s retreat from Derby.  It also arranged for the London Papers to be couriered to its offices by using four staging posts for speed. The modern age of newspapers had arrived.

As some of you are aware I teach some courses for the WEA – the Workers Educational Association. I shall be delivering a very short course at the beginning of September (Tuesday morning 4th and 11th) on the topic of the Jacobite Prince in Derby. The course reference is C2340279.

https://enrolonline.wea.org.uk/Online/CourseSearchResults.aspx

 

If you would like to attend please book via the WEA website or phone their office.

 

Barker, Hannah. (1999) Newspapers and English Society 1695-1855

Clarke, Bob. (2004) From Grub Street to Fleet Street: An Illustrated History of English Newspapers to 1899.

Harris, Bob. (1995) England’s Provincial Newspapers and the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745-46. History 80.  5-21

Pentland, G 2011, ‘“We Speak for the Ready”: Images of Scots in Political Prints, 1707-1832’ Scottish Historical Review, vol 90, no. 1, pp. 64-95. DOI: 10.3366/shr.2011.0004