Tag Archives: mary arundell

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.

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.