16 February 1816. A sickly visit to Paris and a return to a sickly England
n July 1815, Napoleon surrendered at last and the aristocracy relished the opportunity to visit the continent. Richard Temple (later the first Duke of Buckingham and Chandos) had missed out on the Grand Tour that so many young men journeyed as a rite of passage due to the wars, and now at the age of 38, he could at last begin to explore the continent. He left England with his sister Lady Mary in November 1815. It was a stormy passage across the Channel and the trip did not get any better after that. Lady Mary, writing from Buckingham House in Pall Mall, tells Doctor Charles O’Conor of the difficulties Richard faced during the holiday.
My Brother arrived [in London] very ill with a bilious attack, fever & inclination to Gout. He was not well the whole time we were in Paris. I think that the damp muggy weather we had there disagreed with him as well as the light wines the only beverage to be found. He was so anxious to get here for the opening of Parliament that in spite of illness & our remonstrances he leaves Paris & was so ill upon the road that I thought he could not have continued his journey. After he had at last got here I was often afraid that he would have a serious illness, & his spirits were so low that he could not be left a moment. He is now however thank God quite well has been once to the House of Lords & is resuming his usual occupations & amusements.
Richard decided to return home to Stowe, which he had yet to make his own after the death of his father and mother. His wife Anna Elisa preferred her family home at Avington and he was often so busy with politics that he lived mostly at Buckingham House in Pall Mall. Stowe in consequence had become somewhat neglected.
It is my Brothers intention as soon as Politics will allow him, to set out for Stowe where (I know it will please you to hear it) he means to live quietly for several months. Heaven grant that this intention may last, as you & I my dear Dr will then again have the happiness of seeing our terrestrial paradise looked upon as the home of its owners… as it has hitherto only been used by my Brother & Sister as a sort of Inn for a few months of the year, where they receive the whole county & live in a constant mob… to her justice, I really think my Sister [Anna Eliza] is trying to like the place & interest herself in it, which a quiet life there would promote more than anything.
Lady Mary then wrote about the general state of the country. Less than a year after it had defeated its arch enemy after 16 years at war, England was most miserable scene:
The distress of the country is dreadful—here trades people in extensive business [?] for bills of a few shillings, & sell their goods at half price, & to add to the misery smuggling is so much practiced that French Goods are every where preferred & bought, & in the country Farmers cannot pay their rent or labourers so that there again the lower class is starving. I believe never was so much misery as there is now. The higher class too are all poor. Houses to let without end in every street. […] It really is most serious, & however Ministers may pass over other things they must in some way relieve the Agricultural interest—as a farmers wife I speak feelingly on this subject.