Tag Archives: fremantle

Monday 13 February 1804. A fine party at Swanbourne

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_misses_harriet_and_justina_wynne_from_a_drawing_at_helensburghBetsey & Justina

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.

4 March 1805. The Polish Dwarf—“a little horror”

Betsey Wynne records a unusual meeting in her diary. She travelled to London with her husband, Captain Thomas Francis Fremantle. Mary Nugent, Marchioness of Buckingham called on her:

Lady Buckingham called to take us to see Count Barlowsky, the little polish dwarf who is only three feet two inches & 69 years of age, he is a little horror, tho’ better proportioned than dwarfs are in general, but his manners & conversation exceedingly done.

The Count’s name is incorrect in the published edition of the Wynne Diaries and it may have that Betsey did not know how to spell his name. Józef Boruwłaski, born in 1739, was a Polish-born dwarf who toured European and Turkish courts, ending his days in Durham, England.joseph_boruwlaski-scaled500

He was never a Count of course. That was a title adopted by a man of great wit and intelligence, a talented dancer and musician, to ease his way through European society. Just 8 inches tall at birth, he grew to 3 feet 3 inches in adulthood. He arrived in Britain in 1782 and retired to Durham in 1791.

In Durham, he was great friends with Stephen Kemble, an actor of Falstaff proportions. They strolled the banks of the River Wear together, the original Little and Large!

For all his lack of height, Boruwłaski did not lack in longevity. He died in Durham in 1837, aged 97.

Betsey of course did not mean “horror” in the way the word is used today. She meant “oddity” rather than “disgraceful” or “terrifying”.

20 March 1821. Death of a confidential postman

Richard Temple, Marquess of Buckingham, writes to his London confidant and fixer, William Henry Fremantle:

The date of my letter compared with that of the receipt of it will have shewn you that you ought to have got it a day sooner. But the poor wretch who carried my post bag on Sunday night was thrown from his horse & killed on the spot & my bag lay with him all night in the road.

It was unlucky indeed for the poor postman, whose name history has not recorded. It could have been more unlucky for the Duke of Wellington if the letter the postman was carrying had been stolen.

The letter, marked “Confidential”, offered advice to be conveyed by Fremantle to Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, the nation’s conquering hero on the battlefield—and in the bedroom.

Five or six years earlier, the Duke had an encounter with Lady Westmeath. Beautiful, dark eyed and rapacious, Emily was struggling through a tempestuous, sometimes violent marriage. Now, as tortuous divorce proceedings got under way, there seemed no hope that the Duke of Wellington’s name could be kept out of it.

One accusation made by Emily was that her mother had suggested she sleep with the Duke to advance the family fortunes. Perhaps she did so in the winter of 1815/16, or on others that presented themselves. She would not have been the first woman to fall for the Duke’s advances. Whether she dallied or not, her husband saw it as an opportunity to lay a trap for his wife and to drag the Duke of Wellington into the divorce proceedings.

It took a while for the bitter Westmeath affair to unravel. Although the Duke of Wellington was mentioned in court documents, his reputation came to no harm as by then his reputation as a womaniser was well established. This satirical print drawn by Isaac Cruikshank in 1819 leaves little to the imagination:

duke_of_wellington_cannon_cruikshank© Trustees of the British Museum

The ladies are saying:

“Bless what a spanker! I hope it won’t fire it at me, I could never support such a thing!”
“It can’t do any harm, for he has fired it so often in various Countries, that it is nearly wore out!” 

As I said, it leaves little to the imagination.

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.

Trafalgar Day – Nelson and the Cult of Celebrity

[This post was written on Trafalgar Day 2011.]

I am perennially perplexed by the attention given to modern “celebrities”. In 2131, will anyone know who David Beckham was, or any of the stars of X Factor or Strictly? I doubt it.

Two hundred and eight years ago, Horatio Nelson was killed in the Battle of Trafalgar. Few people in history have been so revered. He was Britain’s first mega-celebrity.

On 14 September 1805, Nelson had arrived at Portsmouth and could not make his way to his ship due to the pressure of crowds who wanted to cheer off their national hero. He tried to sneak off at nearby Southsea, but the whole crowd surged to follow and cheer him.

Like all superstars, he did not underestimate his own fame. “I had their huzzas before, I have their hearts now” he told his captain, Thomas Masterman Hardy as he finally stepped from English soil for the last time.

With the victory at Trafalgar, the nation had a victory to celebrate and a hero to mourn.

Vice Admiral Thomas Fremantle commanded the Neptune during the battle. He wrote to his brother William:

“The loss of Lord Nelson is the loss of everything and no man knows which way he is to look for the common & necessary qualities of the command of a fleet of such a magnitude as there is now here.”

When news of the victory reached London nearly three weeks later, his wife Elizabeth Fremantle caught the national mood in her diary:

“In the midst of my delight to hear Fremantle had been preserved in this severe action, I could not help feeling greatly distressed for the Fate of poor Nelson whose loss is irreparable… Poor Nelson! had he survived, it would have been glorious indeed. Regret at Nelson’s death is more severely felt than joy at the destruction of the Combined Fleets.”

Another diarist, Maria Skinner wrote:

“Great news! The combined fleet defeated off Cadiz, but Lord Nelson no more! I could not help being greatly affected by the whole account, and retired to my own room, to vent my feelings.”

Charles Williams, a man who could be a cruel satirist, drew one of the more touching cartoons of the day, portraying Poll greeting her naval husband at Portsmouth.

jack-and-poll-at-portsmouth_bm_croppedPoll says: “Welcome! welcome home my Dear Jack – !! Ah! but you have not brought
the brave Lord Nelson with you, well I hope he is in Heaven.”
Jack answers: “In Heaven! aye to be sure he is Poll. What in Hell should prevent him.”
Image: British Museum.

As every school kid knows, Nelson’s body was brought back to England picked in brandy. He was honoured a state funeral and his body lies in St Paul’s crypt, where he receives flowers on his birthday and the anniversary of his death. He was a celebrity in his lifetime and still is.

So move over Nicole Scherzinger, Simon Cowell and other here today, gone tomorrow “celebrities”. Let’s hear it for real celebrities remembered more than two centuries after their death.

1 January 1810: No end to the hipping and hurrahing at Stowe

At Christmas and New Year, the Grenvilles, their extended family and friends gathered at Stowe.

betsey_wynne_cutThe Wynne sisters were among them and on 1 January 1810, Betsey Wynne (above) writes in her diary:

The weather was favourable to the Day, and proved quite Spring. We all went immediately after breakfast on the Lawn at the North side of the House, where several Groups of Morris Dancers and the Bands of the Buckinghamshire Militia and of the 14th played in turns and enlivened the Scene. I was made most happy by the arrival of Tom, Emma, and Charles, and shall contrive to keep them here till after the Ball.

At one o’clock the poor people from twelve neighbouring parishes arrived for the dinner, with the Clergyman of each Parish at their head and to say Grace at the different Tables, the Colonnades and Sheds under them were filled with Tables, which held twelve each, and their dinner consisted of Soup, Meat pies, and pudding. Every thing was so well arranged that there was not the smallest difficulty, and about one thousand persons were fed.

After dinner, some racing and restling for prizes filled up the time till dusk, when the fire works began and an immense Bond fire was lighted. We remained on the Steps of the House and did not find it at all cold. Ld. Downshire and his Brother Ld.

Arthur Hill arrived just at the conclusion of the fete, and at seven we sat down to dinner, with the addition of the numerous Newman Family, and all the Clergymen, who had attended their parishioners which encreased the party to about 74, all in the Music room, the noise was great and no end to the hipping and hurrahing.