Tag Archives: 1st duke

19 January 1801. Death of a village smallpox pioneer

Richard Temple’s tutor, friend, drinking companion and debtor, Robert Holt died on 19 January 1801. He had been ill for some while and was taking asses milk in hope of alleviation or a cure. Holt will be remembered in Finmere, where Richard’s father had placed him as rector. Regrettably he will go down in history as the Rector who died insolvent, having spent monies due to the parish chest. He deserves instead to be celebrated for his pioneering work on smallpox among local communities.

Finmere Church By Laura Ashwell

In the summer of 1799, John Abernethy, founder of St Bartholomew’s Medical School, introduced Holt to vaccination:

In conversing with Mr Holt … on the subject of the cow-pox [vaccine], the favourable report which I made of its effects from my own small experience and observations, induced him, as he takes a kind of parental interest in the sufferings and welfare of his parishioners, to inoculate some of them.

At first, Holt was concerned villagers would be too frightened to take part in his experiment:

The novelty of the vaccination experiment made me apprehensive that my parishioners would not readily submit to an operation which they might consider dangerous in its consequences.

His reservations were misplaced:

My fears were soon removed as I found all impressed by the belief that the cowpox caught in the natural way was a certain preventive of the smallpox.

He began his experiment with Elizabeth Smith who was then twenty-five years old:

I inoculated [her] in both arms to ensure the probability of infection. On the sixth day she complained of headache and pain. She had no pustules, except where I made the incisions … She had no indisposition … and on the thirteenth day the pustules became dry and peeled off.

Within two months, Holt had inoculated 300 people. His supply of vaccine was limited and he increased it by taking matter from the arms of people already vaccinated. The villagers recognised the benefits of vaccination but it was not a pleasant experience:

My cases were all like each other, viz. pain in the axillae the seventh or eighth day, slight head-ach, sometimes attended with feverish shiverings, which inevitably yielded to a dose of salts the day after.

There were exceptions. A painful inflammation of the arm kept baker Thomas Sheen from work for three days. Holt judged that the heat in Sheen’s bakery had aggravated the swelling. Seven-year-old Thomas Williams had a small smallpox-like pustule, and William Neal (10 years) and Hannah Beal (6) each had more than one hundred small pustules. But they were no more ill than others vaccinated.

Holt was concerned that William and Hannah might have smallpox. To test this, he drew matter from their pustules and inoculated eight children from them. Fortunately, [the eight] “all had the complaint in its mildest form.” Parish records reveal that William Neal lived a long life, dying in 1870, aged 81 years.

Holt supplied fellow clergyman William Finch in St Helens with vaccine. Beginning on 17 November 1799 with David Scarborough, son of a clogger, Finch vaccinated more than 3,000 people during the following two years.

All this was just a year after Edward Jenner published his Inquiry into the Cause and Effects of the Variolæ Vaccinæ. Robert Holt, and William Finch, deserve to be remembered as the Clergymen Vaccinators.

Gillray’s take on Smallpox Vaccination

Holt was buried at Finmere and Richard dedicated a memorial in the nave by the chancel arch to him. Translated, it reads:

What kindliness there was in him, according to the poor
What friendship there was in him according to friends
May you readily recognise, therefore, that this was placed in grief
and with affection by his companion
Richard Temple

21 January 1806. “How absorbing politics are of every other feeling”

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”.the_pigs_possessed_500

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.

silk_stowe_south_front_1 silk_stowe_south_front_2The south front of Stowe House printed on silk (1917)
The original image is by Alexander Francis Lydon (c. 1865)

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.

20 February 1824. Mary Anning, Conybeare, and the Plesiosaurus

The mineral and fossil collection built by the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos at Stowe in the 1820s was almost unequalled. He purchased the mineral collection of Abbé Haüy, the celebrated founder of crystallography after his death. It cost £4,000, around £3 million today! The ten thousand specimen collection was housed in a Museum set in the flower garden at Stowe, along with many natural history, fossil and archaeological specimens.

The Duke’s prize specimen was not, however, within the Haüy collection. It was the complete skeleton of a Plesiosaurus which he purchased from fossil collector, dealer and palaeontologist Mary Anning for 100 guineas (£105) in 1823. There was great excitement about this huge specimen, one of the largest discovered. It measured about 10 feet long (3 meters).

The Plesiosaurus created a great deal of scientific interest, and the Duke allowed it to be examined by his friend and correspondent Dr William Buckland. A plaster cast of the specimen was made by Sir Frances Chantrey, and a lithograph from this appeared in the Transactions of the Geological Society of London (below).



The Rev William Daniel Conybeare used this fossil to confirm and revise his analysis of plesiosaur anatomy at a meeting of the Geological Society in 1824. Many commentators have since noted that he failed to mention Mary Anning by name, and accuse the men of stealing credit due to her. Conybeare’s presentation was made at the same meeting as that at which Buckland described the dinosaur Megalosaurus. The whole matter was sensational and Mary Anning rightly earned the epithet “the greatest fossilist the world ever knew”.

The Plesiosaurus was sold to the British Museum in 1848 for the modest sum of 8 guineas (£8 8s). The Haüy collection went under the hammer for a scarcely better sum of 310 guineas (£325 10s) to M Dufrénoy, who purchased it for the Jardin des Plantes, at Paris.

10 March 1806. British “invaders seeking to establish a dominion and to acquire an empire” in India

In 1805, James Paull arrived in the House of Commons determined to settle old scores. Paull had been a successful trader in Oudh, now part of Uttar Pradesh, in India. As he built his fortune, he became friends with the governor-general, the Marquess of Wellesley (Richard Wellesley; 1760–1842; brother of the future Duke of Wellington). That friendship abruptly ended when Wellesley threw the traders out of Oudh.

A fiery Scot and lousy gambler, Paull smouldered with anger against Wellesley and was set on revenge. In June 1805, Paull purchased a seat in parliament representing Newtown on the Isle of Wight. Almost at once, he set about trying to impeach Wellesley for ruining the trade of the nawabs of Oudh but he met ferocious resistance, not least from Richard, Lord Temple, the future Duke of Buckingham and Chandos. Whatever the merits of the case against Wellesley, and the general view was that it was not strong enough to justify impeachment, the Wellesleys were close friends of the Buckinghams. Richard would not stand by and see him impeached. The matter dragged on through parliament for two years but the motion to impeach Wellesley was finally defeated by 182 votes to 31 in 1808.

gillray_a_plumper_for_paul© Trustees of the British Museum

The image above is taken from James Gillray’s print “A Plumper for Paul!” published on 13 March 1807. Paull had again made a nuisance of himself by petitioning against Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s election for the seat of Westminster. He failed to overturn the election result, just as he failed to impeach Wellesley. Sheridan is shown angrily blasting Paull who has collapsed onto the Wellesley impeachment document while holding the election petition.

One memorable debate took place on Monday, 10 March 1806. In the House of Commons, Richard Temple accused the Rajah of Bhurtpore of treachery (he was not the only MP to do so). Lord Folkestone rose and condemned Richard’s remark:

“This rajah is a native prince of India, having natural connections with the country; we have none such, but are really invaders, seeking to establish a dominion and to acquire an empire. In these circumstances, if these or other native chiefs should take measures for preventing us, or for expelling us, it seems to me that it might be attributed to other dispositions than those of perfidy, and such conduct be called by another name than treachery.”

An independent radical MP, William Pleydell-Bouverie the 3rd Earl of Radnor was styled Viscount Folkestone. Despite his aristocratic background, he was fiercely opposed to the old style of government that relied on patronage and sinecures—though ironically he was elected to a pocket borough controlled by his father. His retort to Richard Temple was well ahead its time. The attitudes of most British politicians to the colonisation of India were to change very slowly indeed. It would be more than 140 years before India was to break free from British rule.

12 March 1829. The Catholic Question that divided a nation and divided a family

The rights of catholics to sit in parliament and take part in public life had been restricted since the Reformation, when the Church of England was established as the state Church. Laws were passed which discriminated against Roman Catholics, including the 1559 Act of Uniformity. Widespread discrimination and persecution followed.

Political opposition to suppression of catholics grew throughout the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Grenvilles were strong supporters of emancipation but Lord Grenville’s government of All the Talents fell in March 1807 in the face of opposition by King George III to even limited catholic emancipation.

the_funeral_procession_of_broad_bottom_cq-scaled500© Trustees of the British Museum

“The funeral procession of Broad-bottom” (6 April 1807). James Gillray’s satire of the fall of Lord Grenville’s government, portraying the Grenvilles as catholics. From left: George Grenville (the Marquess of Buckingham), Pope Pius VII and Richard Temple (Lord Temple). 

The Catholic Question split the Grenville family too. Richard Temple, the 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos was an ardent supporter of the catholic cause—his mother and his sister were catholics. But his wife and their son, Chandos, were fiercely opposed to allowing catholics further rights.

In late 1828, Brunswick Clubs were formed across England with the express purpose of stirring opposition to catholic emancipation. Chandos took the chair of the newly formed Buckinghamshire Brunswick Constitutional Club in late 1828, while his father was touring the Mediterranean. When Richard got to hear of the Club in March 1829, his response was immediate and furious. He wrote an open letter from Rome to the “Gentry, Clergy, and Freeholders of the Hundreds of Buckingham, Ashendon, and Cottesloe in the County of Buckingham” condemning the Brunswick Club for misunderstanding history, the constitution and betraying his family.

Richard’s lengthy letter defends the role of catholics in British history and argues there is no constitutional reason the King could not sign an act on catholic emancipation into law. He calls on the memory of his father, George Grenville, who Richard says was much loved by the people of Buckinghamshire who had supported him in full knowledge of his pro-catholic views. And they had several times voted for Richard himself. “Every freeholder… voted for me. Ay, every one!”, he writes somewhat hysterically. The Bucks gentry had voted for him because they:

“had not then been lashed into fury and madness by intriguing, mischievous, and discontented spirits. You had not then suffered the unbridled enthusiasm and fiery zeal of heated youth to overpower prudence and overwhelm experience.”

The heated youth and discontented spirit Richard referred to was his son, Chandos. An Ultra Tory, Chandos opposed emancipation at every stage but to no avail. On 13 April, 1829, King George IV reluctantly signed “An Act for the Relief of His Majesty’s Roman Catholic Subjects” into law.

Catholic emancipation is of course not yet complete. Nearly 200 years after catholics were allowed to sit in parliament we have yet to have a catholic prime minister and a catholic cannot ascend to the throne. But then, catholic emancipation has been a slow process all along.

Richard Temple’s eyes: the Chubby Cherub at Stowe identified

The State Music Room at Stowe is one of the great jewels in the crown of this magnificent house. Its ornamentation is pleasing, gracious and intriguing.

Accounts of the décor, furniture and artists are given elsewhere (for example, Stowe House, Michael Bevington 2002 and The Stowe Catalogue Priced and Annotated, Henry Rumsey Forster 1848). This note focuses on a single panel, featuring Apollo, and a woman and child.

The Music Room and the panel we are examining was painted by Vincenzo Valdre (1742–1814). Bevington suggests that the room was finished after 1781 and I know of no more precise date for its completion.

mary_nugentAll the elements of the panel are superbly executed but only two have a significant interest to a historian of Stowe and the Grenvilles. These are the lady and the child.

Bevington almost says it, as others have before and since. “Perhaps it is not too-far fetched to see in the attractive lady before [Apollo] a reminder of Lady Buckingham, herself a keen musician,” he writes. This is too coy. The sitter for the Grecian lady playing her lyre in an offering to the god of music is without a doubt Mary Nugent—Lady Buckingham, who from 1784 was the Marchioness of Buckingham. The following portraits illustrate the likeness (Valdre c. 1780; Unknown c. 1770; Reynolds 1780-82).

mary_nugent_headsThis is not the only likeness in Vincenzo Valdre’s panel. The chubby cherub is a stocky child just a little too large for the assemblage and has familiar features. There is no doubt in my mind that this child is Richard Temple, later the first Duke of Buckingham and Chandos. He was born in 1776 and would have been a few years old when the panel was painted. The hair and eyes are Richard Temple through and through. Again the portraits illustrate the likeness (Valdre c. 1780; Reynolds 1780-82; Romney before 1802).


We need entertain no discomfort in recognising the lady of the house as the sitter for a portrait that borders on the raunchy. Mary Nugent, politically minded, devoutly catholic and the mother of a duke to be, was a lady who loved art, music and fun in equal measure. Betsy Wynne’s diaries, and a host of letters give witness to the merriness and gaiety at Stowe at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries.

And of course, her son was the model for the cherub. You only need to look at the eyes. They are Richard Temple’s eyes.

6 January 1806. Too Much Kissing on Twelfth Night

harriet_and_justina_wynneThe Grenvilles’ Christmas gatherings at Stowe were want to last for the full 12 days of Christmas. Betsy Wynne made a note of the festivities:

Twelfth day kept in the most charming manner for the amusement of the children et toutes les jeunes personnes—Ld Temple being King & Justine Queen two thrones were erected—they were crowned & danced in their costume with the children as Pages bearing their trains, which had a very good effect. General Poulett as Chamberlain acted his part delightfully—Ld George Prince of Wales, &c. &c. Too much kissing was allowed. My brats danced & enjoyed themselves, Je me contentaide les admirer.

Justine (also Justina) is Betsy’s beautiful dreamy sister. That’s her on the right with her sister Harriet to the left. Lord Temple was to become the first Duke of Buckingham and Chandos. Lord George was his amorous brother. General Poulett of Addington was a family friend, but not for long.