Category Archives: Lady Patronesses

An Almack’s Mystery: Who was Miss Pelham?

The First Quadrille at Almack’s

The Almack’s best known today is the “Marriage Mart” of the Regency era, with the Lady Patronesses at the helm: Lady Jersey, Lady Sefton, Lady Castlereagh, Mrs. Drummond-Burrell, Princess Esterhazy and Princess Lieven. We know of it from novels, for its mediocre suppers, stringently-enforced rules (no waltzing without the approval of a Lady Patroness), and highly prized vouchers. However, there was life at Almack’s before that. And it was somewhat different…

One cannot underrate the importance of assembly rooms in the Georgian and Regency periods. With the sharp divide between men’s and women’s activities, a free zone where both could be present was a necessity. Places to see and be seen, young people were closely chaperoned as they met, danced and conversed. Potential marriage partners were on display, and the rituals of courtship (or commerce) observed. Every town or city had its own assemblies during its social season. Of course, London had to have the most exclusive of all. One thing the assembly rooms have in common is gambling. Cards were offered for the entertainment of those who did not dance. This included women.

Almack’s Coffee House opened in 1763 in St. James’s Street, and, some years later, became known as the gentlemen’s club Brookes’s. (Coffee houses catered to men.) William Almack decided on a new venture, selected a site on King Street, St. James’s, east of Pall Mall Place, and built three very elegant rooms, offering a ball and supper once a week for twelve weeks for a subscription of 10 guineas. In 1768, he added another room for cards, decorated in blue damask. It did not take long for Almack’s to be firmly established and popular with the highest of high society, including Lady Sarah Lennox, the Duke of Cumberland (brother of George III), the Duchess of Gordon and other notables. It became known for high play, with fortunes lost and won, by women as well as men.

Almack’s Assembly Rooms, late 18th or early 19th century

On May 6, 1770, Walpole wrote to George Montagu about an innovation at Almacks: “It is to be a club of both sexes to be erected at Almacs, on the mode of that of the men of Whites. Mrs. Fitzroy, lady Pembroke, Mrs. Meynel, lady Molyneux, Miss Pelham, and Miss Loyd, are the foundresses.” I found the inclusion of two single ladies in such a leadership position interesting, and decided to investigate Miss Pelham. Who was she, and how did she get into this position at Almacks?

I cannot say unequivocally that I found her. However, I did find a likely candidate: Frances Pelham, daughter of Rt. Hon. Henry Pelham who served as Prime Minister during George II’s reign (Mr. Pelham’s brother was the Duke of Newcastle). Available data indicates that Frances was born in 1728, one of six daughters, and the second eldest of the four who survived into adulthood. The earliest mention I have of her so far is in John Robert Robinson’s biography of William Douglas, fourth Duke of Queensberry. Then Lord March, William Douglas took a house on Arlington Street in Piccadilly in 1752 next door to that of the Hon. Henry Pelham, then First Lord of the treasury. According this biography, the reason for his choice was “the bright eyes of Miss Frances Pelham, who had smitten the heart of this noble ‘macaroni’.”2 At this time, Frances would have been approximately 24 years old. According to this source, Lord March and Miss Pelham conversed through facing windows, as her father would not admit him. Supposedly, Lord March courted Miss Pelham upwards of seven years. Upon her father’s death in 1754, unaccountably, the couple did not marry. One speculation is that, with her father’s death, any hope of political assistance for Lord March died as well, but that idea is discounted in Mr. Robinson’s biography. Her father left her a life estate in Esher, Surrey.

The Right Honorable Henry Pelham, Prime Minister

Little information surfaces about Miss Pelham again, until mentioned in relationship to Almack’s, and gambling. In 1770, Frances Pelham would have been forty two years old and well past an expectation of marriage, a spinster of means and social status. Her being involved with such a venture as Almack’s is not an impossible or unlikely event. At any rate, at this point in time, the Miss Pelham of Almack’s was a gambler, who was famed for her fondness for deep play. By 1773, she was known for losing hundreds of pounds a night, and (with several of the other ladies) had moved away from Almack’s to other venues, and had earned the nickname of Miss Pell-Mell. There are indications that she dissipated her own fortune and required assistance from her relatives.

Miss Frances Pelham never married, and died the 10th of January 1804 at about age 76. According to The Annual Register, Or, A View of the History, Politics and Literature for the Year 1804, she had an excellent reputation. This reference indicates she was very rich, with a considerable estate. However, A Topographical History of Surrey is very specific that Mr. Pelham had left his possessions in Esher for her life by will and, at her death, the property devolved to her nephew. This in some ways supports my theory identifying Frances Pelham with Miss Pelham of Almack’s fame, as a life estate limited the inheritor’s ownership, and his (or her) ability to dispose of assets. She would have had a place to live and conceivably assets (or at least family) to support her after she had gambled away her disposable funds.

I am continuing my research, but we may never find incontrovertible evidence for the identity of Miss Pelham, founding patroness of Almack’s. I haven’t even been able, to date, to find a portrait of Frances Pelham, and she is not identified in The Peerage. However, I can’t help but feel that Miss Frances Pelham, spinster daughter of a Prime Minister of superior social standing, may have found some satisfaction and excitement in an alternative life as Miss Pell-Mell, gambler, for a period of time after other options faded away.

Notes:
1 Letters from the Hon. Horace Walpole, to George Montagu, Esq. From the Year 1736, to the Year 1770 (The Works of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Oxford in six volumes. Vol. VI.) P. 434

2 Robinson, John Robert, ’Old Q’ A Memoir of William Douglas Fourth Duke of Queensberry K. T. P. 59.

Sources:
Chancellor, E. Beresford. Memorials of St. James’s Street and Chronicles of Almack’s. New York: Brentano’s, 1922.

The University of Nottingham. “Biography of Henry Pelham (c. 1695-1754: Prime Minister.” http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections/collectionsindepth/family/newcastle/biographies/biographyofhenrypelham(c1695-1754;primeminister).aspx

Google Books. The Annual Register, Or, A View of the History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1804. “Deaths in 1804.” London: W. Otridge & Sons, et al, 1806. http://books.google.com/books?id=TdU7AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA464&lpg=PA464&dq=Miss+F.+Pelham,+The+annual+register+1804&source=bl&ots=ugJ5Qbg07d&sig=NF6zZzWbEHe65CVT5A8X-Wz8o7s&hl=en&sa=X&ei=gCbTUu_0HoinsQTl5YDIDA&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Miss%20F.%20Pelham%2C%20The%20annual%20register%201804&f=false

Google Books. A Topographical History of Surrey by Edward Wedlake Brayley, F.S.A., etc. London: G. Willis, 1850. http://books.google.com/books?id=wWnM-tMf85sC&pg=PA436&lpg=PA436&dq=frances+pelham,+topographical+history+of+surrey&source=bl&ots=5V6kaNl98D&sig=ZweRJpPbO9qY8aORj3ex9c0dpag&hl=en&sa=X&ei=cCPTUo6yLPLOsASZzoCYDQ&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=frances%20pelham%2C%20topographical%20history%20of%20surrey&f=false

Google Books. Letters from the Hon. Horace Walpole, to George Montagu, Esq. From the Year 1736, to the Year 1770 (The Works of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Oxford in six volumes. Vol. VI.) London: Rodwell and Martin, 1818). http://books.google.com/books?id=ZCvnAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA443&lpg=PA443&dq=walpole+wrote+to+montagu&source=bl&ots=-JxOG2WTFW&sig=XCdeVrtoz-CR2rkwOys3q3HOqqk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=5-zJUvCRE4bskAeHmYGoCQ&ved=0CEUQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=there%20is%20a%20new%20club&f=false

Google Books. ‘Old Q’ A Memoir of William Douglas Fourth Duke of Queensberry K.T. by John Robert Robinson. London: Sampson Low, Marston and Company, Limited, 1895. PP. 58-61. http://books.google.com/books?id=BxEMAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA60&lpg=PA60&dq=%22Old+Q%22+and+Miss+Pelham&source=bl&ots=2cGiJt0Dog&sig=x6xMaGpc2NqwgfirEWBVzyNNnxE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=a_LSUq_vI5S1sASA6YD4Cw&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=%22Old%20Q%22%20and%20Miss%20Pelham&f=false

Google Books. Women, Sociability and Theatre in Georgian London, by Gillian Russell. Cambridge University Press, 2007. http://books.google.com/books?id=C-L61YcegI8C&pg=PA69&lpg=PA69&dq=Gillian+Russell+Miss+Pelham&source=bl&ots=SmhlUVXk5v&sig=2bG266CZ6l_kAJHrD00c-p2vJTk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=0_jSUuqNG_DLsQS0m4DAAw&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Gillian%20Russell%20Miss%20Pelham&f=false

All images from Wikimedia Commons.

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Princess Esterhazy: The “Bonne Enfant” of Almack’s


Portrait of Prince and Princess Esterhazy with their children c. 1850

She was born Her Serene Highness, Princess Maria Theresia, Hereditary Princess of Thurn and Taxis on July 6, 1794. Her parents were Karl Alexander, the 5th Prince of Thurn and Taxis, and Duchess Therese of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (a niece of the late English Queen Charlotte). She was their third child, and second daughter. Princess Maria Theresia was born in Regensburg, Bavaria. She maintained an attachment to the city of Regensburg throughout her life.

Princess Maria Theresia was married to Crown Prince Paul Anthony Esterhazy III (date of birth March 11, 1786) of Galantha on June 18, 1812 in Regensburg, not quite 18 years old to his age26. The prince’s father, Prince Nicholas II, travelled extensively and had lived for some time in England. From an ancient Hungarian family, Prince Paul Esterhazy had begun a diplomatic career young, serving under Louis, Prince of Stahremberg, in London. He was apparently liked and respected in English society as well as in diplomatic circles. It seems Princess Esterhazy was already active in London society and established as a Patroness of Almack’s by 1814, so it is obvious that she plunged right in to the social mainstream. After attending the Congress of Vienna in 1814 with Metternich, where Princess Esterhazy was much admired, Prince Paul was appointed to the Prince Regent’s court in 1815 as Austrian ambassador, at the Prince Regent’s request.

The youngest of the Lady Patronesses, Princess Esterhazy was an attractive young woman, based on the descriptions. She was apparently dark, plump, pretty and lively. Countess Lieven (later Princess) described her as “small, round, black, animated and spiteful”. She was very formal, and known to have a distaste for status seekers. Her love of ceremony and etiquette were attributed to her German background. As wife of the Austrian ambassador, Hereditary Princess of Thurn and Taxis in her own right, and connected with English royalty (cousin to Princess Charlotte, niece of the Duchess of Cumberland), Princess Esterhazy was at the top of the social strata from the beginning. Her knowledge protocol and of Austro-Hungarian, German and central European aristocracy would have been invaluable to her as a hostess for her husband.

Princess Esterhazy’s youth, personal attractiveness, and connections put her into a position of influence, had she chosen to use it. Supposedly Countess Lieven felt Princess Esterhazy to be a threat to her own position, at least initially. Information about Princess Esterhazy as a spiteful person appears in Countess Lieven’s letters to Prince Metternich. Countess Lieven was known for her efforts to influence European politics in Russia’s best interests, and apparently feared that the Austrian ambassador’s young wife would attempt to compete with her on the political stage as well as in society. It’s interesting to speculate that her malicious comments about Princess Esterhazy were an underhanded way to undercut Prince Paul’s position as Austrian ambassador. Ironically, there is no reference to Princess Esterhazy having any interest in political maneuvering. According to the Memoirs of the Comtesse de Boigne, Princess Esterhazy missed her home and was bored in London.

Princess Esterhazy was primarily associated with high society in her capacity as Lady Patroness of Almack’s. She was one of only two foreigners accorded this position (the other being Countess Lieven). As previously mentioned, she was a very high stickler. She was noted for her love of new dances, and was especially fond of waltzing. She was frequently partnered by Baron de Neumann, secretary at the Austrian Embassy.

Prince and Princess Esterhazy had 3 children, two daughters and a son, Nicholas Paul. It is interesting to note that their son was born in Regensburg in 1817, and married Lady Sarah Frederica Villiers, the daughter of Lord and Lady Jersey.

Her father-in-law passed away November 25, 1833, at which point her husband Paul became the 8th Prince Esterhazy of Galantha. Princess Maria Theresia’s full title became Princess Maria Theresia Esterhazy, Princess of Galantha, Princess of Thurn and Taxis. (The questions of lineage and title were apparently contributed to Countess Lieven’s dislike of Princess Esterhazy; her dislike appears to have been returned. When Count Lieven was made a prince in 1826, the now-Princess Lieven told Lord Grey that they were the only ones granted that title. Princess Esterhazy had no hesitation in showing her disdain for the Russian title, which did not endear her to Princess Lieven.) It is worth noting that the only source I found that dwells on Princess Esterhazy’s spiteful nature seems to be Princess Lieven.

Prince Esterhazy served as the Austrian Ambassador from 1815 to 1818, and again from 1830 to 1839. Prince and Princess Esterhazy also ruled Galantha from his father’s death and returned there in 1842. The Prince was active in political affairs for the Austrian empire and for Hungary, serving briefly as minister of foreign affairs to the King of Hungary, trying to mediate between the two governments. He left public life completely when Austrian and Hungarian relations broke down in 1848. I have found little data of Princess Esterhazy’s life after leaving England or during the years in Hungary. Sources indicate that Prince Esterhazy (and, by extension, Princess Esterhazy) had spent beyond his means, and that his last years were made difficult by money problems. He died May 21, 1866 in Regensburg (Maria Theresia’s much loved home city), at which time their son Nicholas became Crown Prince.

Princess Maria Theresia lived until August 18, 1874. She died in Huttledorf, Vienna, Austria. It is known that her son eased the family’s financial straits by selling the family’s famous art collection to the Austro-Hungarian Empire about 1870. Her rooms are the focus of an exhibition at the Esterhazy Palace in Eisenstadt, Austria. I requested more information about her from the Esterhazy Palace, but have yet to receive a reply. I will post an update with any additional information about her, when received.

Sources include:
Chancellor, E. Beresford. LIFE IN REGENCY AND EARLY VICTORIAN TIMES An Account of the Days of Brummell and D’orsay 1800 to 1850. London: B. T. Batsford, Ltd. 1926.

Also by Chancellor: Memorials of ST. JAMES’S STREET and Chronicles of Almack’s. New York: Brentano’s, 1922.

Charmley, John. The PRINCESS and the POLITICIANS Sex, Intrigue and Diplomacy, 1812-1840. London: Penguin Group, 2005. [This is actually about Princess Lieven, but talks about her issues with Princess Esterhazy.]

Gronow, Captain Rees Howell. Reminiscences of Captain Gronow. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1862. Reprinted by IndyPublish.com, McLean, VA.

King, David. VIENNA 1814 How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna. New York: Random House, Inc. 2008
.
Kloester, Jennifer. GEORGETTE HEYER’S Regency World. London: William Heinemann, 2005.

Quennell, Peter, ed. THE PRIVATE LETTERS OF PRINCESS LIEVEN TO PRINCE METTERNICH 1820-1826. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc. 1938.

Robinson, Lionel G., ed. LETTERS OF DOROTHEA, PRINCESS LIEVEN, during her Residence in London, 1812-1834. London: Longmans, Green and Co. 1902.

Candace Hern’s blog. “Leaders of Society and the Demimonde.” Princess Esterhazy (1794-?) http://www.candacehern.com/regency.htm

Unusual Historicals blog. “Fashionable People of the Regency- – Time for a Reassessment?” by Michelle Styles, posted 7/10/2012. http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com/2012/07/fashionable-people-of-regency-time-for.html

GoogleBooks.com. An Irish Beauty of the Regency by Frances Pery Calvert (the Hon. Mrs.) Great Britain: John Lane, 1911. Page 341. http://books.google.com/books?id=_LA_AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA341&lpg=PA341&dq=princess+esterhazy+regency&source=bl&ots=VfO–gHncf&sig=dpn5TZy–v898ruToxfX9z2Q6pY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=jw0gUe6vCpT09gTfzYHQCA&ved=0CDIQ6AEwATgU#v=onepage&q=princess%20esterhazy%20regency&f=false

GoogleBooks.com. Memoires of the comtesse de Boigne, Volume 2. (1815-1819). by Louise-Eleonore-Charlotte-Adelaide Osmond Boigne (comtesse de). M. Charles Nicoulaud. London: William Heinemann, 1907. http://books.google.com/books?id=6VUoAAAAYAAJ&q=The+diplomatic+body+paul+esterhazy#v=snippet&q=The%20diplomatic%20body%20paul%20esterhazy&f=false

GluedIdeas.com. From “Chambers Encyclopedia 1880”, Vol. 5 Escitria to Fagging, ESTERHAZY entry. http://gluedideas.com/content-collection/chambers-5/Esterhazy.html

ThePeearage.com. “Maria Theresia Prinzessin von Thurn und Taxis.” Person #32081. http://www.thepeerage.com/p32081.htm#i320810; “Pal Antal Furst Esterhazy von Galantha.” Person 320811. http://www.thepeerage.com/p32082.htm#i320811

Wikipedia.com. “Princess Maria Theresia of Thurn and Taxis.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/index.html?curid=25561257
Image: Wikipedia Commons Prince Pal Antal Esterhazy and his Family c 1850 artist unknown http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3a/Prince_P%C3%A1l_Antal_Esterh%C3%A1zy_and_his_Family_c._1850.jpg/595px-Prince_P%C3%A1l_Antal_Esterh%C3%A1zy_and_his_Family_c._1850.jpg

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“Queen Sarah”

Best known as one of the feared Lady Patronesses of Almack’s, she was born Sarah Sophia Fane in March 3, 1785, the eldest daughter of John Fane, the 10th earl of Westmorland, and his wife Anne Child (or Sarah Anne Child), the only child of the banker, Robert Child. Disapproving of the marriage because Anne eloped at age 17 to Gretna Greene in 1782, with John Fane, her father Robert Child changed his will so that his estate would bypass her and go to either her second son or her eldest daughter.   Robert Child died the same year of his daughter’s marriage, so Sarah Sophia was born an heiress.  There is no indication of what Sarah Sophia’s relationship with her parents or siblings was.  Her mother died when Sarah Sophia was eight. 

Sarah Sophia married George Villiers, Viscount Villiers, on May 23, 1804, at home in Berkley Square.  However, there were several hints of an elopement to Gretna Green for her.  Many of the sources I found were careful not to cite the place of marriage.  (This may be a result of confusion with her mother, both being named Sarah.  It is also possible that Sarah Sophia and George did elope but also had a ceremony to satisfy family or convention.)  By all accounts, she held him in great affection.  George became the 5th Earl of Jersey and 8th Viscount Grandison in 1805. Sarah Sophia had inherited the Child fortune and property, including Osterley Park, at birth, and took control when she came of age in 1806. In an age of women as chattels, Sarah was unique in that her inheritance made her the senior partner of Child & Co., a position she held for over 60 years.    She took an active interest in the bank, visiting the premises, checking profit and loss statements, and intervening in employee issues.  The couple had five sons and three daughters, seven of whom survived to adulthood.

Sarah Sophia, also known as Sally, became a leader of the “Ton”, and wielded a great deal of influence in Society. Sarah Sophia was considered a great beauty.  She made a name for herself by being extremely rude and behaving theatrically. She chattered incessantly, acquiring the nickname of “Silence.” Determined to stand apart from her mother-in-law, the scandalous Frances, Lady Jersey, who was mistress of the Prince of Wales, Sarah Sophia made a great show of personal virtue, although she apparently throve on gossip. In spite of her affectations, she appears to have been regarded with affection by many of her peers.   In a letter written in 1816 to her brother, General Alexander Beckendorf, Princess Lieven described Lady Jersey as one of her “most intimate friends.”  (Princess Lieven also said in a later letter to Prince Metternich that “…Lady Jersey has the most dangerous tongue I know.”  Written in 1823, it would appear that there had been a falling out.)  Although she called herself Sally, one of her nicknames in Society was “Queen Sarah.”  When Lady Caroline Lamb published her novel GLENARVON in 1816, Lady Jersey was supposedly the inspiration for the character of Lady Augusta.  As a result, “Queen Sarah” banned Caroline from Almack’s, effectively ending Caroline’s social career. 

Sarah Sophia and her husband entertained at their home in Berkley Square, and Middleton Park in Oxfordshire.  They seem to have spent little time at Osterley Park in Middlesex.  Sarah Sophia is supposed to have introduced the Quadrille to Almack’s in 1815. She was a noted political hostess for her husband, who legally added the name of Child in 1819 to become George Child-Villiers, Earl of Jersey. An avid hunter and racing aficionado, her husband held offices in the households of William IV and of Queen Victoria.  Sarah Sophia was interested in politics, and not shy about expressing her opinions.  She apparently switched from Whig to Tory views by the 1820’s.  She supported Queen Caroline against George IV when he tried to divorce Caroline, wearing a portrait of Caroline in public.   Sarah  Sophia also spoke openly against the Reform Bill of 1832. 

George died October 3, 1859, followed shortly by their eldest son.   Her grandson (her oldest son’s son)   inherited the title.  After her husband’s death, she continued to entertain and take an interest in what was going on around her, especially charitable concerns including the establishment of schools on the family estates to assist tenants and laborers.  She died of a ruptured blood vessel, according to her obituary, at Berkley Square on January 26, 1867, at age 81, outliving her husband and six of her seven children.  Both Lord and Lady Jersey were buried at Middleton Stoney, Oxfordshire.

Lady Jersey’s fame lived on after her, and she appears in Regency romance novels by many authors, including Georgette Heyer,  frequently as a character.  She will also be seen in my upcoming novel, due out later this year.

[This is an expansion of some information I posted on Goodreads on Oct. 20, 2011 in the Historical Info for Historical Fiction Readers group.]

Gronow, Captain Rees Howell.  Reminiscences of Captain Gronow. Originally published 1862: Smith, Elder & Co., London; republished by IndyPublish.com, McLean, VA.

Quennell, Peter, ed. The Private Letters of Princess Lieven to Prince Metternich 1820-1826.  1938: E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc. NY. (P. 283)

Robinson, Lionel G.  Letters of Dorothea, Princess Lieven, during her Residence in London, 1812-1834. 1902: Longmans, Green, and Co. London. (P. 29)

“Child & Co, Bankers of London.”  http://www.hypatia.demon.co.uk/ost2006/historical_bank.html  

Find A Grave. “Sarah Sophia Fane Child-Villiers.”  http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=91951396

“Osterley Park– A Brief History.”   http://www.hypatia.demon.co.uk/ost2006/historical_brief.html  

One London One blog.  “The Death of Lady Jersey in 1867.” By Kristine Hughes and Victoria Hinshaw.  Posted March 3, 2012. http://onelondonone.blogspot.com/2012/03/death-of-lady-jersey-in-1867.html

The Peerage Online.  “Lady Sarah Sophia Fane.”  http://www.thepeerage.com/p2703.htm

RBS Heritage Online. “Sarah Sophia Child-Villiers.” http://heritagearchives.rbs.com/wiki/Sarah_Sophia_Child-Villiers

Regency History.  “Lady Jersey (1785-1867).” By Rachel Knowles, posted Nov. 4, 2011.  http://www.regencyhistory.net/2011/11/lady-jersey-1785-1867.html

A Web of English History.  “Sarah Sophia Child, Lady Jersey, 1785-1867.” Dr. Marjory Bloy.   http://www.historyhome.co.uk/people/jersey.htm       

Image: from Wikimedia Commons- Sarah Sophia Child Villiers, Countess of Jersey (née Fane) (1785-1867) by Alfred Edward Chalon, painted in the first half of the 19th century. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/dc/Sarah_Sophia_Child_Villiers%2C_Countess_of_Jersey_%28n%C3%A9e_Fane%29_%281785-1867%29%2C_by_Alfred_Edward_Chalon.jpg/361px-Sarah_Sophia_Child_Villiers%2C_Countess_of_Jersey_%28n%C3%A9e_Fane%29_%281785-1867%29%2C_by_Alfred_Edward_Chalon.jpg

 

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The “Infamous” Mrs. Drummond-Burrell

          Born in Edinburgh, Scotland May 5, 1786, Sarah Clementina (or Clementina Sarah) was the daughter of James Drummond, Lord Perth, Baron Drummond of Stobhall and the Honorable Clementina Elphinstone.  The Drummond family was a noble family of Perthshire, who were loyal to the Jacobite cause.  After the Rising in 1715, the 4th Earl Drummond was attainted and the estates and title were lost (although still considered valid by the Jacobites in exile).  Clementina’s father obtained restoration of the estates in 1787, but the title was not restored; he was created Earl of Perth by George III in 1797 (he was considered the 11th earl de jure).    Clementina was the only surviving child and heir.   A number of compositions for dances were named for her, including “Clementina Sarah Drummond”, a strathspey by John Bowie published in 1789, and “Miss Sarah Drummond of Perth”, another strathspey.  On her father’s death in 1800, she inherited a large fortune and estates in Perthshire. 

          On October 19, 1807, at age 21, Clementina married the Honorable Peter Burrell, who was the son of Sir Peter Burrell, 2nd Baronet Burell of Knipp and subsequently Baron Gwyndir, and Lady Priscilla Bertie, 21st Baroness Willoughby de Eresby and the daughter of the 3rd Duke of Ancaster.  His family had no money to speak of.  On November 5, 1807, the couple took the name of Drummond-Burrell by royal license.   This was supposedly at her father’s insistence but, since he died in 1800, this may have been a requirement of her marriage settlement or her own request.  (I also saw an indication that this may have been at his father’s request.)  In any case, the couple became Mr. and Mrs. Drummond-Burrell.  Initially, at least, they lived at Drummond Castle.

Priscilla, Lady Willoughby de Eresby, by Sampson Towgood Roch (after a miniature painted by Saunders 1810) -Mother of Peter Robert Drummond-Burrell

          Peter Drummond-Burrell was a great dandy, and a member of Brooks’s Club (a Whig stronghold), and had been working toward a political career.  He was elected Member of Parliament for Boston in Lincolnshire in April 1812, and usually voted with the opposition, although his attendance was not steady.  Clementina was an active hostess, noted for her parties.  By 1814, according to Captain Gronow, Clementina was one of the patronesses of Almack’s Assembly Rooms.  She had the reputation of being the highest stickler, very proud, and very grand.  In FRIDAY’S CHILD, Georgette Heyer described her as “the most coldly correct of Almack’s patronesses….”   

          There are some implications that this was not a particularly happy marriage.  Peter Drummond-Burrell was expensive, and his father was in debt; Clementina’s reputation for grandeur and shrewdness would not indicate a “soft touch” for cash.  However, after 1808, they appear to be fixed in London and very busy with their social and personal lives.  The couple had five children:  Clementina Elizabeth, born Sept. 2, 1809 in Piccadilly, Westminster; Elizabeth Susan, born Sept. 21, 1810 in Westminster, Charlotte Augusta born Nov. 3, 1815 in Berkley Square; Frederick, born Feb. 4, 1818 in Middlesex; and Alberic born Dec. 25, 1821.  Two of the children died before their parents.  Frederick died May 17, 1819, and Elizabeth died Oct. 10, 1853.  It is worth noting (considering the time) that I did not run across any speculation about the paternity of their children.   I also did not run across suggestions that Peter had a string of mistresses.  (A dandy’s lifestyle, combined with political aspirations, does justify a high level of expenditure!)  This would indicate a couple who, if not madly in love, at least cared about and respected each other.

          Peter’s father died June 29, 1820, apparently significantly in debt, at which point Peter succeeded to his titles, becoming Lord Gwydyr.  His biography on THE HISTORY OF PARLIAMENT indicates he sold many family treasures and, rather than face another election, retired from politics to live in Paris by choice for a period of time.  How long he was in Paris, and whether Clementina went with him,  is unclear.  In any event, they were still a couple and in England fairly soon after this, as their fourth child Alberic was born December 25, 1821, and was christened at St. George’s, Hanover Square, December 30, 1821.   In 1828, his mother died, and he inherited her title, adding the 22nd Baron Willoughby de Eresby and Joint Hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain to his list of titles, invested in the Privy Council.  The couple was known as Lord and Lady Willoughby de Eresby from this point on.   Although the duties of Hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain and Privy Counselor required Lord Willoughby de Eresby’s presence at court, they continued to spend time at Drummond Castle where they were involved in continuing improvements, especially in the gardens.  In 1842, Queen Victoria supposedly planted copper beech trees at Drummond Castle during a visit.

          Clementina died January 16, 1865 in Piccadilly, and was buried in St. Michael Churchyard, East Halton, Lincolnshire.  Peter died February 22, 1865, outliving her by only a month. 

          Clementina Drummond-Burrell was an influential society hostess, with the power to make or break a social career.  She had the reputation of being a high stickler, requiring a high standard of conduct in her protégés.  Certainly, I found no suggestion of scandal connected to her.   Her background as the only child of an earl, heiress to wealth and privilege, may have been a source of pride to her, and must surely have excited envy.  These things, however, do not necessarily require a cold, harsh personality.  Although in novels, she is portrayed as a rigid, implacable despot, the facts I found indicate an admirable person.  In REMINISCENCES OF CAPTAIN GRONOW, “Society in London in 1814,” he describes Lady Castlereagh and Mrs. Burrell “de tres grandes dames”1  (very great ladies).  I can think of worse things for which to be remembered.

Notes:

  1. Gronow, Captain Rees Howell.  REMINISCENCES OF CAPTAIN GRONOW. P. 19

Sources:

Gronow, Captain Rees Howell.  REMINISCENCES OF CAPTAIN GRONOW. 1862: Smith, Elder & Co. Cornhill.  Published in the U.S . by IndyPublish.com, McLean, VA.

Candice Hern Romance Novelist website. “ Leaders of Society and the Demimonde.”  http://www.candicehern.com/regency.htm

A Web of English History website.  “Mr. and Mrs. Drummond-Burrell (1782-1865; 1786-1865). Posted by Dr. Marjorie Bloy.  http://www.historyhome.co.uk/people/burrell.htm

The Peerage Online:  “Lady Sarah Clementina Drummond ”  and “James Drummond, 11th Earl of Perth.”  http://thepeerage.com/p2621.htm  , “Peter Robert Drummond-Burrell, 21st Baron Willoughby de Eresby.”  http://thepeerage.com/p2026.htm#i20260

Find A Grave website: “Lady Sarah Drummond Drummond-Burrell.”  http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=73477058

The History of Parliament Online.  “DRUMMOND BURRELL, Hon. Peter Robert (1782-1865), of Drummond Castle, Perth.”   http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=73477058

Traditional Tune Archive website.  “MISS SARAH DRUMMOND OF PERTH[1].”  http://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Miss_Sarah_Drummond_of_Perth_(1 

Community Trees Project.  “Individual Report for Clementina Sarah Drummond”   and “Individual Report for Alberic Drummond-Willoughby, Lord Willoughby of Eresby.”  http://histfam.familysearch.org

Regency Reader blog.  “Regency Villains: Mrs. Drummond Burrell.” Posted by Anne Glover, 2/24/2012.  http://anneglover.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/regency-villians-mrs-drummond-burrell/   

Image from Wikimedia Commons: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4e/Priscilla%2C_Lady_Willoughby_de_Eresby.png

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