Category Archives: Stories
20 January 1827. If you are lower class, “a word and a blow go together”. But if you are a nobleman…
After years of conflict, the domestic battle between Lord and Lady Westmeath ended up in the courts. She had a ferocious temper, and it is fair to say, a lack of judgement on matters matrimonial. He was violent, beating her several times. Attempts at an agreed separation fail, and she sued for divorce. He countered with a suit in the Consistory Court for restoration of conjugal rights, and won. That judgement was overturned on 20 January 1827.
Sir John Nichol, judge of the Arches Court of Canterbury, was measured in his judgement. There are things he cannot not say because they did not contravene the law in 1827. He was judging aristocrats and, as a man of some standing himself, he struggled to give credibility to poor and poverty stricken witnesses against the word of a man of standing—Lord Westmeath. Early in a lengthy judgement, he opined on whether domestic violence is more acceptable among the lower classes.
“Among the lower classes, blows sometimes pass between couples who, in the main, are very happy, and have no desire to part; amidst very coarse habits, such incidents occur almost as freely as rude or reproachful words: a word and a blow go together. Still, even among the very lowest classes, there is generally a feeling of something unmanly in striking a woman.”
He was saying that it may be unmanly but quite expected that a lower class man might swear at and thrash his wife. What then of the noble classes? Judge Nichol continues:
“But if a gentleman, a person of education… if a nobleman, of high rank and ancient family, uses personal violence to his wife, his equal in rank, the choice of his affection, the friend of his bosom, the mother of his offspring—such conduct, in such a person, carries with it something so degrading to the husband, and so insulting and mortifying to the wife, as to render the injury itself far more severe and insupportable.”
To be fair to Nichol, after this crustaceous start to his judgement, he did identify Lord Westmeath as the principal guilty party, ruling that “to compel the wife to return to cohabitation would be but to expose her to the risk and danger of renewed violence”.
The image above is Gillray’s cartoon of Judge Thumb, Sir Francis Buller, who famously decreed that a man might beat his wife if the stick was no thicker than the man’s thumb. Buller was Anna Eliza’s legal guardian.
Lady Maria Nugent writes a note in her diary after dining at the Marquess of Buckingham’s house in Pall Mall, where the talk was of the illness of William Pitt the Younger. Mr Pitt, Prime Minister, died two days later.
Dine again in Pall Mall. A sociable and agreeable, though a rather melancholy party, poor Mr. Pitt being at the point of death, and almost the sole subject of conversation. Came home, reflecting much upon the lives of politicians, and how absorbing politics are of every other feeling.
“How absorbing politics are of every other feeling,” Maria wrote. Days after this was written, Richard Temple was to join the new government, though his father, the Marquess, did not take a formal role due to ill health.
The cartoon below by James Gillray shows the Grenville government being kicked out by George III. Richard Temple is head first in the water at the front with the label: “Last Stake of the Broad-Bottomed Family”.
Thomas Telford’s magnificent bridge was opened on 30 January 1826. One of the early descriptions of the bridge is by Lord Westmeath in a letter to Richard Temple, the first Duke of Buckingham and Chandos.
Holyhead Aug. 26
My dear Duke
[…] The crowds coming down to see the bridge are quite beyond belief. I would mention that observing it the other day when it blew hard I could perceive it undulating quite distinctly, but it evidently proceeded from the wind beneath, & not from the workers above.
An intelligent man at the toll house informed me that the S.W. wind is that to which it is worst exposed, & it has received a cast from that point by last winters gales before it was finished, which it will never lose. It seems to me however from its mighty strength to be secure from the elements greatest power, & in beauty it surpasses all powers of description.
Everly My dear Duke yours
sincerely & gratefully
Proserpina, is the Roman goddess of springtime and wife of Pluto. She also lent her name to one of the more famous of His Majesty’s ships wrecked in the time of King George III. Richard Temple’s uncle was Thomas Grenville, an intellectual, bibliophile and sometime diplomat. He was on a secret mission to Berlin to broker an alliance. But HMS Proserpine which was commanded to convey him to Prussia was wrecked on this day in 1799.
There are many versions of the story this shipwreck, which so caught the popular imagination it was dramatised in a play at Sadler’s Wells. Tom Grenville’s letter to his brother Lord Grenville, gives a first hand account of the events.
I write one line to tell you that we are all alive and well, having providentially escaped from the wreck of the Proserpine to this small island, eight miles distant from Cuxhaven. We sailed, as you know, on Monday the 28th January, though, from the mails not having arrived, we had some small apprehension about the passage. We took a pilot from Helegoland, who dissuaded us from the enterprise; but the wind being favourable, and our own pilot confident, we determined to go on as long as we could with safety.
A sudden change of the wind however brought down from the Elbe such immense fragments of ice that, by the time we had passed Newerk in the way to Cuxhaven, we found it utterly impossible to proceed, and we began to attempt to return; the buoys being all cut away, we saw our danger and the difficulty which we should have in escaping the pressure of ice, the mass and rapidity of which it is not easy to describe.
On Friday the 31st, from there being no buoys left, we ran upon a sand-bank a few miles from this place and stuck there; in this situation we had to stand the rapid tides which brought down upon the ship on every side larger and thicker blocks of ice than I could have conceived it possible to have been put in motion; no boat could live a moment, and on Friday night the shocks were so great that our rudder was forced away, and the general opinion was that every hour was likely to break the ship down in a state that would leave us no chance of saving our lives, and we had already thrown overboard all our guns and heavy stores without any effect.
Desperate however as our state was, Mr. Fisher, Baron Kirkla, and I determined to make any effort rather than await with a certainty of perishing where we were. Providentially the ice had increased so much that on one side of the ship it was frozen quite fast in, though the tide still ran quickly on the other, and knowing that we could not be above a mile or two from the coast, we determined, and the captain and crew agreed with us, in trying to explore a passage on the ice on foot, and we succeeded well enough in this attempt to arrive safely at this place last night.
Upon mustering our numbers we find that we have only lost twelve persons who perished by the extreme severity of the weather in the hazardous march which we were obliged to make; the frigate still appears not to be entirely broken down, and if the weather admits of it before she disappears, the captain will endeavour to save what he can. None of our party have any one article of baggage or dress except what we have on our bodies, but our escape is so wonderful that I can only dwell upon our miraculous deliverance, and have not room in my mind for any other reflections of loss or of embarrassments. I have been fortunate enough to save the greater part of my papers […]
Of the cutter which sailed with us we know nothing, but we learnt here that the packet which sailed from Yarmouth on the same day that we did (commanded by Captain Dean, of Yarmouth) was lost three miles from this place on the day before that of our misfortune. The passengers, however, and crew all escaped, except one or two of the seamen. We are likely to be detained here a few days before any road is practicable for us to reach Cuxhaven; from thence we shall proceed to Hamburgh in order to buy some shoes and stockings and coats and waistcoats, and from one of those places I will write again to you a letter which will, I doubt not, reach you as soon as this, as they tell me the passage of the Elbe is not likely to be open this fortnight at soonest.
On 5 February, 1783 a royal warrant was issued to George Grenville (who then signed himself Nugent Buckingham) authorising him to arrange for letters patent under the great seal of Ireland to create a new Order of St Patrick. Although the patents were apparently not issued, the order received the Royal signature on 28 February and the first Chapter was held on 11 March, at which Nugent Buckingham invested himself Grand Master.
The aim of the order was reward those in high office in Ireland and Irish peers who supported the government. It served as the national Order of Ireland, similar to the Garter in England and the Thistle in Scotland.
The original number of Knights of St Patrick was fifteen plus the Sovereign. This was increased to 22, plus the Sovereign, on the visit of George IV to Ireland in August 1821. The Knights wore mantles of sky-blue satin, and the star of the Order was embroidered in silver on the right breast.
The original Knights were:
Nugent Buckingham (the Lord Lieutenant is a Knight by virtue of office)
Prince Edward, fourth son of George III
William Robert, Duke of Leinster
Henry, Earl of Clanricarde
Randal William, Earl of Antrim
Thomas, Earl of Westmeath
Murrough, Earl of Inchiquin
Charles, Earl of Drogheda
George de la Poer, Earl of Tyrone
Richard, Earl of Shannon
James, Earl of Clanbrassil
Richard Colley, Earl of Mornington
James, Earl of Courtown
James, Earl of Charlemount
Thomas, Earl of Bective
Henry, Earl of Ely
The Order lapsed nearly two hundred years later in 1974 with the death of the last surviving recipient, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester.
With her husband sailing towards Copenhagen as Captain of the Ganges, and soon to fight alongside Nelson in the glorious battle of that port, Betsy Fremantle was busy keeping house at Swanbourne in Buckinghamshire. The following diary account of a party at Swanbourne would not be out of place in Jane Austen’s novels.
Swanbourne, 13th February. Monday. Lady Buckingham arrived soon after nine o’clock with Lord George, Lady Mary and Mr. Martin. We breakfasted in the Library and she admired much the House. She saw all my brats and was very civil to old Mrs Fremantle who had not seen her for some years. She left us at eleven and the moment she was gone I was busy in clearing my room for this evening’s dance, preparing the supper table &c. We dined in Capt. Fremantle’s dressing room. Miss Chaplin came in the morning and little Harriet Howard who I asked to please her Mamma and is the ugliest little ape I ever saw.
Did Betsy Fremantle ever expect her diaries to be read? If she did she might not have called poor little Harriet Howard “the ugliest ape I ever saw”! Lady Buckingham is Richard Temple’s mother, Lord George and Lady Mary his brother and sister. Mr Martin is Abbé Martin, an exiled French catholic priest. His mother, sister and the Wynne sisters are all Catholics (Betsy Fremantle was Betsy Wynne before her marriage).
The party began at eight:
We all dressed after dinner and our company began to assemble at eight o’clock—Miss Heslop, Miss Bennett and her brother, five Miss Pouletts and their brother, General Poulett was ill but paid me a great compliment by sending all his children—Mr. and Mrs. Howard, Dr. Millner, Wodley, the Blicks, Capt. Brown, Mr. and Mrs. Harman, five Lowndes, a Mr. Oddy and another friend they brought, in all we were thirty-four. Dancing was kept up with much spirit and thirteen couples had just room enough in the Library. We supped at twelve, our table in the dining room held twenty-two, the rest were in the Dressing room. Supper was very good and all went off better I expected. Dancing soon recommenced and was kept up till half-past four; I was so lame I could not dance and played Casino with Mrs. Fremantle. Everybody seemed much pleased with the party… Mr. Wodley was a great treat.
It is amusing that a Miss Bennett is mentioned as this might have been a scene out of Pride and Prejudice. Among the five Miss Pouletts was Anne Lucy who was falling in love with my brother Lord George.
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.
John Broadway (1771-1836) was clerk of the works to the Duke and the Duchess at Stowe of Buckingham and Chandos until his death there in 1836. He was a first-class steward and a family friend.
His untimely death was a great shock. Anna Eliza, the Duchess, wrote to her cousin Captain Percy Grace with the news:
We experienced a dreadful shock a Month ago from the awful death of poor Broadway who fell from a trap Door a height of twelve feet upon a Stone Pavement & was instantly killed close to the Room where we were at breakfast. It is impossible to describe the effect it had upon us all & I trust the awful lesson of the uncertainty of this life will be of lasting benefit!
Broadway was one of the last remaining Catholics at Stowe. The Duke’s mother was a Catholic and, even though his father was Protestant, he was a great supporter of the Catholic cause—as Richard (the Duke) was also. In Richard’s parents’ time, there were a good number of Catholics at Stowe including the librarian Charles O’Conor, an excommunicated Irish priest. After the death of Richard’s father, Catholic worship was outlawed at Stowe—though the family remained loyal to its friends and estate workers who practised the Catholic faith.
Broadway was buried a few miles from Stowe in the graveyard at Holy Trinity Church, Hethe, Oxfordshire.