Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Inauguration of George Washington

At our last meeting with George Washington, we witnessed the final hours of the ailing President's life. Today though, I am happy to mark a far happier event in that particular gentleman's life and one that marked on iconic moment. On 30th April 1789, George Washington attended Federal Hall in New York to be received by Robert Livington, the Chancellor of the State of New York. In the hours that followed, he was inaugurated as the first president in this history of America.

 George Washington's Inauguration by Ramon de Elorriaga, 1899
 George Washington's Inauguration by Ramon de Elorriaga, 1899

As the day dawned an excited crowd began to amass in the city, keen to witness this historic event and whilst some went directly to Federal Hall, others lined the roads along the route Washington would take to reach his Wall Street destination. He had only been in New York a week, having travelled from Virginia and when he emerged from the house to meet his supporters, Washington was dressed in a dark brown suit of American cloth, with bright white stockings. His shoes bore silver buckles and at his hip he wore a ceremonial sword.

Federal Hall
Federal Hall

When he arrived at Federal Hall, Washington was taken first to the Senate chamber and then to the balcony where 10,000 people watched as Livingston swore in the new president. Using the bible from St. John's Masonic Lodge No.1, the solemn oath was undertaken by a clearly nervous Washington. Indeed, my colonial gentleman's people in the know say that you could fairly see his hands shaking as the ceremony progressed. As the military fired a 13 gun salute the crowd gave an uproarious cheer to welcome the new president into his now iconic office.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Captain Cook Lands at Botany Bay

We have met Captain James Cook here at the Guide before, when I told the story of his somewhat grisly Hawaiian end. Today we welcome the Captain back to the salon to commemorate his first landing at what came to be known as Botany Bay.

James Cook by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, 1776
James Cook by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, 1776

In 1770, though Cook's rank was that of lieutenant, he served as captain of HMS Endeavour, engaged in a mission to charter the coastline of southern Australia and observe the transit of Venus. It was whilst undertaking these important tasks that Cook identified a place of safe anchorage in a natural bay located between what is now Cape Banks and Point Solander. With Cook keen to go ashore and discover more about this new territory, it was decided that the Endeavour would drop anchor so members of her crew could investigate further. 

Botany Bay by Charles Gore, 1789
Botany Bay by Charles Gore, 1789

The area was inhabited by the Gweagal, a tribe of Indigenous Australians. As the ship drew near, a few Gweagal warriors gathered on the rocks to watch its approach whilst the majority took shelter further inland. In fact there was to be no further action that day as the crew waited overnight and on 29th April 1770, a party from the ship went ashore. The contact between the Gweagal and the Europeans was understandably tense. When the local people remonstrated with the landing party, shots were fired by the British but there was no escalation in conflict.

In fact, in the eight days that the British were on land, the Gweagal did their best to avoid their visitors. Though the men from the Endeavour attempted to make contact their efforts were in vain. Instead the local people went about their daily routines, all the while keeping a close eye on their visitors.

The crew of the Endeavour come ashore; from Australia: the first hundred years, by Andrew Garran, 1886
The crew of the Endeavour come ashore; from Australia: the first hundred years, by Andrew Garran, 1886

As the Endeavour lay at anchor, the crew coined the name Stingrays Harbour, to reflect the large number of that fish in the bay. However, as Cook wrote in his own journal, so verdant were the flora of the region and so many specimens were available to the ship's botanists that he renamed the area Botanist's Bay, later amending this to Botany Bay.

Eventually the Endeavour resumed its iconic voyage; four months later, Cook claimed his newly-chartered coastline as British territory and set sail for home.

Landing of Captain Cook at Botany Bay, 1770 by E. Phillips Fox, 1902
Landing of Captain Cook at Botany Bay, 1770 by E. Phillips Fox, 1902

Monday, 28 April 2014

A Deadly Affair: Count Johann Friedrich Struensee

Count Johann Friedrich Struensee (Prussia, 5th August 1737 – Copenhagen, Denmark, 28th April 1772)

Johann Friedrich Struensee by Hans Hansen after Jens Juel, 1824
Johann Friedrich Struensee by Hans Hansen after Jens Juel, 1824

Today we mark the death of a polarising figure in Scandinavian court politics, Count Johann Friedrich Struensee. My post on Queen Caroline Mathilde, right back in the early weeks of the Guide, remains a popular item almost a year after it was first published and I thought it might be germane to revisit this turbulent story, with a look at the final act of the life of Struensee.

Struensee was brought into the Danish court to quell the eccentricities of King Christian VII and his decision to emply the doctor was initially applauded by his counsellors, who saw the physician as a much-needed stabilising influence. In fact it was to prove a pivotal moment in the history of the Danish monarchy, shaking the house of Oldenburg to its foundations.  Within a year of Struensee's arrival at court the unhappy Queen Caroline Mathilde and Struensee were lovers; as the king decended deeper into madness, so Struensee's influence at court increased until, in late 1770, he was elected privy counsellor.

Caroline Mathilde by Francis Cotes
Caroline Mathilde by Francis Cotes

By the time of Struensee's rise to power the king was confined and often incoherent, so his former doctor enjoyed a period of virtually unchallenged authority, initiating over a thousand reforms that began with the total restructure of the unwieldy Danish cabinet. One might have expected Christian to be disturbed by these developments but in fact it was the opposite; he delighted in the unusual arrangement, glad to see his wife happy, his own marital responsibilities discharged and the burden of government business lifted from his shoulders. 

However, the ruling classes did not share their monarch's delight and when the queen gave birth to a daughter who was assumed to be Struensee's child, they moved in earnest against him. Facing higher taxes, reduced privilege and more reforms than they knew what to do with, the cabinet and court turned against the queen and her lover, their previously anaemic support for Christian returning with a fervour.

Woodcut depicting the arrest of Johann Friedrich Struensee
Woodcut depicting the arrest of Johann Friedrich Struensee

On 17th January 1772, Caroline Mathilde and Struensee were arrested. Struensee was charged with usurping royal authority and subjected to interrogation and torture. He mounted an eloquent and passionate defence of his actions but the die was already cast and Struensee was sentenced to have his hand severed and then to be beheaded, drawn and quartered. He was held in readiness for execution at Kastellet in Copenhagen and on 28th April was conveyed to the scaffold.

Woodcut depicting the execution of Johann Friedrich Struensee
Woodcut depicting the execution of Johann Friedrich Struensee

Here the grisly sentence was enacted before an audience of tens of thousands. Queen Caroline Mathilde and her daughter were sent into exile in Celle, where the queen died aged just 23, never seeing Denmark again.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

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Sunday, 27 April 2014

A Scandalous Regent: Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies

Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies (Maria Cristina Ferdinanda di Borbon; Palermo, Italy, 27th April 1806 - Le Havre, France, 22nd August 1878)

María Christina by Vicente López y Portaña, 1830
Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies by Vicente López y Portaña, 1830

Hot on the heels of Maria Amalia's salon trip yesterday, I am pleased to welcome another lady of the  Two Sicilies today in the well-dressed shape of Maria Christina. She was born the daughter of Francis I of the Two Sicilies and Maria Isabella, his second spouse.

Like so many noble children the destiny of Maria Christina was shaped by family and when her mother's brother, King Ferdinand VII of Spain, found himself heirless and widowed for a third time in 1829, it was swiftly agreed that the young lady would make an excellent match for her uncle. The couple were wed on 11th December 1829 in Madrid; the thrice-widowed groom was 45 years old, his niece and bride just 23. In fact, the quest for a male heir was to remain unfulfilled and by the time Ferdinand died in 1833, the couple had two young daughters but no son. With the three year old Isabella next in line to the throne thanks to a change in the laws of succession, Maria Christina took on the role of Regent.

Maria Christina and Ferdinand VII by Luis de la Cruz y Rios, 1832
Maria Christina and Ferdinand VII by Luis de la Cruz y Rios, 1832

Whilst married to Ferdinand, Maria Christina encountered Agustín Fernando Muñoz; two years her junior and a Sergeant of the Royal Guard, Muñoz made quite an impact on the queen. Just three months after the death of her husband, Maria Christina and Muñoz were married in a secret ceremony. Together they had seven children, all of whom survived childhood. The couple knew that they must keep their marriage a secret if Maria Christina was to remain as Regent but their affair was public knowledge at court, even if their legal bond was not.

Maria Christina's regency was not without conflict and the late king's brother, Infante Carlos, Count of Molina, argued vociferously that the law naming Isabella as heir was actually illegal and that he was the rightful King of Spain. In addition, he claimed that Ferdinand had no wish to make his daughter queen and that Maria Christina had forged legal documents bearing her late husband's name in a quest to rob Carlos of his rightful claim to the throne.

Agustín Fernando Muñoz
Agustín Fernando Muñoz

This was a family and political dispute that was not going to die a quiet death and when the Carlist Wars broke out, Maria Christina stood against Carlos and his demands for an absolute monarchy with himself at the helm. Despite strong support for Carlos from the traditionalist members of the ruling classes and the Catholic Church, the army came out in favour of Maria Christina and she successfully defended her daughter's claim to the throne.

Eventually and inevitably, news of the secret marriage began to leak out and soon the scandal engulfed the court. Ministers and influential military leaders prevailed upon Maria Christina to step aside and in 1840 she and Muñoz went into exile in France, with the regency now assumed by General Baldomero Espartero, Count of Luchana. Here they remained until Queen Isabella II assumed the throne in 1844, at which point she swiftly gave her official blessing to her mother's marriage, granting permission for a public ceremony, as well as awarding Muñoz the title of Duke of Riánsares. He would go on to be highly decorated in both Spain and France, where he and Maria Christina made their home.

Maria Christina

When the 1868 revolution swept Isabella from power, she joined her mother and stepfather in France. After the scandal of their early years, Maria Christina and Muñoz had settled into a devoted and happy retirement, living very well from the profits of the business interests of the well-liked Muñoz. Maria Christina became a widow in 1873 and lived on in quiet retirement for five further years before she too passed away, her turbulent life finally at an end.

Maria Christina

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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily, Queen of the July Monarchy

Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily (Maria Amalia Teresa; Caserta, Italy, 26th April 1782 - Surrey, England, 24th March 1866)

Maria Amalia with her children Henry of Orleans, Duke of Aumale and Antoine of Orléans, Duke of Montpensier by Louis Hersent, 1835
Maria Amalia with her children Henry of Orleans, Duke of Aumale and Antoine of Orléans, Duke of Montpensier by Louis Hersent, 1835

Noble ladies are always popular visitors to the salon and our guest today is certainly one of those! Born to a king and married to a future king of France, Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily lived a turbulent and unsettled life that saw her crossing Europe in search of a place to settle.

Maria Amalia was born into European royalty as the daughter of King Ferdinand I of Two Sicilies and Maria Carolina of Austria. Her grandparents were our old friends, Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and of course, she could number a most iconic queen of France amongst her aunties. An exceptionally studious and pious girl, in her infancy the young princess was betrothed to her cousin, Louis Joseph, Dauphin of France. this would have been an illustrious match for Maria Amalia but it was not to be, as her future husband passed away aged just seven.

Louis Philippe by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1841
Louis Philippe by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1841

Within a few short years the landscape of France changed forever as the revolution swept through the land and the Neapolitan court stood against France as part of the First Coalition. Eventually, as the revolutionary wars spread across the continent, the royal family fled their home bound for Sicily, just the first of several new homes that the itinerant nobles would occupy as they tried to remain one step ahead of the fighting.

Of course, the Neapolitan family were not the only people fleeing the fighting and when Maria Amalia was 24 she encountered the exiled Louis Philippe d'Orléans. the stage was soon set for marriage and in 1809 the couple were wed; in total they would have ten children, all but two of whom survived to adulthood. Their relationship was plagued by constant financial tribulations, though these did little to deter their spending, and the family struggled to settle with their return to France in 1814 cut short by Napoleon's reemergence onto the political scene.

Maria Amalia by Louis Hersent, 1828
Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily by Louis Hersent, 1828

Although Maria Amalia had no interest in politics and no wish to serve as a political wife, she had no choice in 1830 when the July monarchy saw the Duke and Duchess installed as King and Queen Consort of France in 1830. Like others before them, they did not hold onto the French throne and were forced to fell for England once more in the wake of the 1848 revolution. This time, they would not return to France before their deaths.

Widowed that same year, Maria Amalia remained in residence in England and devoted herself to philanthropy and her faith. She lived out a private and secluded old age and at her death aged 83 was finally returned to France, where she was laid to rest in Chapelle Royale de Dreux.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

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Friday, 25 April 2014

The Long Life of Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh

Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh (London, England, 25th April 1776 - London, England, 30th April 1857)
Princess Mary by William Beechey
By William Beechey

On several occasions here at the Guide I have introduced daughters of the house of Hanover. Their lives were not always long and nor were they always happy, married off for political expediency or gain. Today's guest is Princess Mary, aunt to Queen Victoria and loyal sister to a number of our previous guests. Her life was longer than many of her siblings and though her marriage came relatively late in life, it proved to be a settled union.

Mary was born to George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz at the Queen's residence of Buckingham House and like so many of her siblings, she was christened at St James's Palace. Presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Frederick Cornwallis, the event was attended by many illustrious names from European nobility.

Princess Mary by Thomas Gainsborough, 1782
By Thomas Gainsborough, 1782

The young princess was known for her wit, impeccable behaviour and beauty and it was soon considered that she would make somebody a fine royal bride. At her 1792 debut she charmed the court and at the age of 20, had a fateful meeting with Prince Frederick of Orange, who was exiled to London with his family. The young couple fell in love with one another yet their desire to marry would be unfulfilled. When he learnt of his daughter's attachment to the prince, George III decided that any such union must be postponed in favour of marrying Mary's three elder sisters off first. It was to prove a fateful decision as the young prince died in 1799 whilst on military service in Italy.

Princess Mary was utterly devastated by the loss of her beloved and in recognition of their bond, she was permitted to go into official mourning. Members of her family, particularly Princess Amelia, were Mary's strongest allies during this unhappy time and presently she emerged from mourning, though there was to be no more talk of marriage for some years.

Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh
Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh

In 1810 Mary suffered another devastating loss when her closest sibling, Amelia, died. Like the rest of her family she felt the loss deeply and the death greatly affected Mary. However, a perhaps unexpected turn of events was set in place when Mary's first cousin, Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, learnt that Princess Charlotte of Wales was to marry. Despite rumours of whirlwind passionate liaisons with continental ladies, William had not married, having been viewed as a possible match for Charlotte. Now though, Charlotte had been betrothed to another and the 40 year old Duke was left without a bride; it was swiftly decided that Mary, his equal in age and superior in status, would be the ideal candidate.

Daguerreotype of Queen Victoria, Princess Alice, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester, 1856
Daguerreotype of Queen Victoria, Princess Alice, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester, 1856
 Read more at the Royal Collection

The cousins were married on 22nd July 1816 at St James's Palace and took up residence in Bagshot Park. Here they passed many happy and devoted years together; though their marriage was childless, they were respected and loved by their families and Mary would remain a firm favourite into her old age.

Mary finally left Bagshot on the occasion of her husband's death in 1834, when she moved to White Lodge in Richmond Park. Here she remained for the rest of her life, as faithful and close to her family as ever she had been.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

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Thursday, 24 April 2014

A Salon Guest... General Jean Sarrazin Spy, Traitor & Trigamist

It is a pleasure to welcome two charming ladies of the Georgian world today. Sarah and Jo are your charming hostesses with a tale of espionage and betrayal.


Madame Gilflurt, thank you kindly for inviting us to take a stroll around the Gardens with you. As we know all too well how much you enjoy the gossip of the day, we have a story for you that we feel sure you will not have heard about before, that of one of Napoleon’s highest ranking Generals - Jean Sarrazin.  Many of your military friends will no doubt have heard about him – ‘intelligent and courageous but also conceited with an irascible temperament’ characteristics which as you will soon find out, resulted in his downfall. 

Jean Sarrazin

Born at St. Silvestre, Lot and Garonne, France on the 15th August 1770 Sarrazin rapidly climbed his way up through the ranks when, by the age of just 28 had reached the lofty height of General. A physical description of him at that time gave his statistics as being 5 feet 10 inches in height, brown hair, blue eyes and a robust physique.  Anyway, we’re not here to discuss his military career, we will leave that to someone with far more knowledge on the subject. So, let us move swiftly on to the gossip and scandal, and well, this one is quite a story we hope you enjoy it! 

Whilst serving in Leghorn (Livorno) in Italy, a place occupied by the French army, Sarrazin was to meet a lady who would become wife number one - Cecilia Charlotte Schwartz, the daughter of a respected merchant of that city. The couple were married on the 4th June 1799 at Leghorn in Italy, although other sources say that it was year earlier, but whatever year it was it took the couple some five years to produce their first child, their one and only son and heir Frederic (born 24th February 1805). Oh and by the way we almost forgot to mention something of importance to Sarrazin; upon his marriage he received a not unsubstantial sum of money from Cecilia’s father to seal the marriage. At some point it seems that the marriage fell apart and the couple went their separate ways leaving Cecilia to raise Frederic alone.

Sarrazin continued with his military career until one day whilst he was employed as an officer at Bologne he decided that he could stand the French army no longer and simply deserted and fled to England.  There was much speculation that he was acting as a spy for the English, although nothing was actually proven at the time; however, he was regarded as being a traitor to France. We know from the Alien Register that he arrived in England in June 1810 and that he provided the English with information about Napoleon’s army. 

He wasted no time when arriving in England and promptly began to complain about the accommodation that the government had provided for him, saying that he would have expected to have stayed in a hotel as he had done in the past; he described his lodgings as like being in prison.  He proved a somewhat prolific letter writer and in 1811 he wrote to a senior minister complaining that he felt he had been badly treated and neglected by the British government and that he had given value and received no equal value in return. He stated that he had delivered notes and plans for the government i.e. he was acting as a spy for them and claimed that he was owed over sixty two thousand pounds and provided them with a breakdown of this:

A pension for the first five months he was in England - £1,150Money for books and pamphlets - £918 and 15 shillingsIndemnity for effects lost at Bologne - £10,000For notes and plans - £50,000

At the time of writing this he claimed that he only received £600 and that he was extremely unhappy. Virtually as soon as he arrived in England he began writing frequent letters to the Marquis of Wellesley hassling him for this money along with a passport to get him out of England, stressing in almost every letter that the money was not really for him, but was to support his wife and child, pointing out that his wife was born of English extraction, he also sought English citizenship on one occasion. His demands seemed to fall on deaf ears as no money was forthcoming. 

As his letters appeared to yield no result he had a change of heart and began correspondence with Buenos Aires with a view to leaving England for that place, this too yielded nothing, so he decided on a change of location and corresponded with an America official in the hope of seeking sanctuary in America. Yet again he had no joy!  

As we have said, according to Sarrazin his marriage to Cecilia had been dissolved, however in an account of his claims to the British government for money he wished for it to be recorded that his wife and son were to be denoted as ‘prisoners of war’. 

Whatever the truth of the situation, by 1813 he had met another young lady to whom he was married at St Anne’s Soho on the 26th May of 1813. The lady in question was a Georgiana Maria Hutchinson, twenty one years of age and daughter of Captain Samuel Hutchinson and his wife Albertine. In 1813 Captain Hutchinson was abroad, held as a prisoner of war and had been for some years.  Sarrazin and Georgiana Maria were married by licence, with both declaring themselves to be unmarried, the marriage being witnessed by John Morgan, her sister, Amy Albertina & mother, Albertine Hutchinson. In order for Sarrazin to marry Georgiana he was presented with a difficulty that for anyone else may have been insurmountable, that of him being of the Catholic faith and Georgiana being of the Church of England.  Sarrazin unlike many others had no difficulty in renouncing his Catholic faith; in fact it was something he did willingly as he thought that she had money and therefore worth it to secure her money. 

The marriage was a disaster waiting to happen and after only a couple of months into their marriage the couple went their separate ways according to a letter written by Sarrazin to his wife, Georgiana on the 28th July 1813 –

'My dear Georgiana, return to your husband.  Remember the three months which preceded our marriage.  Think of the sacred engagements which we have contracted.  If you do not yield to your duty and the request of your husband, your mother's malediction, the hatred of Lady B., and the contempt of all the good, will be the precursors of the terrible vengeance with which Heaven sooner or later punishes perjuries.'
(Lady B, being Lady Bessborough, sister of the Duchess of Devonshire)

The couple obviously found a way of putting their differences aside and were reunited; however Sarrazin continued to behave in an appalling manner toward her, so much so that even the life of her unborn child was deemed to have been in danger. Despite this, on the 11th March 1814 Georgiana Maria gave birth to a daughter Frances Mary Emily Sarrazin; yet it was to be just shy of year years before she took Frances to be baptised (20th December 1815 at St Mary Newington); Sarrazin had left to return to France before his daughter was born, offering his services to Napoleon's military in spite of his desertion in 1810 but of course, given the manner of his departure it comes as no surprise to report that they were not interested.  It soon came to light that Sarrazin was not actually free to have married in London and that his first wife Cecilia was still alive. 

Quite what happened within his personal life over the next few years seems unclear, but on the 14th May 1817 Sarrazin married for a third time, his third wife being Marie Delard the daughter of his neighbour. He was later to describe her in the most derogatory of terms ‘Miss Delard was ugly, lame and raised as a peasant’!  

A year later, despite his views of Miss Delard the couple produced a child, on the 17th June 1818, a daughter, Louise.  In later life Sarrazin wrote his memoirs in which he recounted the story about his disastrous marriage to Marie Delard and said that one day she flew into a rage and left him, returning to her father’s house, which he said simply proved to him that he had made a mistake in marrying someone half his age, who he described as being uneducated. With this he decided to pack his bags and leave for Paris to claim his army pension, which he said if he did not receive then he would seek sanctuary in the United States of America, of course by this time he had clearly had enough of his perceived treatment by the English.

The Times of Monday 23rd November 1818 wrote that:

The noted General Sarrazin, we informed by our Parisian correspondent, it is currently rumoured, had been committed to prison, on a charge of having married and deserted three wives. One of the unfortunate ladies, it is added, is a branch of a noble Irish family.  She has arrived in Paris to prosecute and the French government, very much to its honour conducts the prosecution entirely at its own expense.     

By July 1819 his ‘chickens came home to roost’ for The Court of Assizes in Paris tried him for trigamy and found him guilty of this charge sentenced him to the galleys for ten years, to the pillory and to pay his second wife Georgiana Maria 40 million francs compensation; Georgiana Maria, possibly still slightly in love with him, for some bizarre reason implored the King to pardon him.  Obviously news of his sentence travelled between France and England as on Saturday the 11th March 1820 The Leeds Mercury wrote:

General Sarrazin stood in the pillory at Paris, on Monday, he was so refractory that he had to be tied hand and foot and carried to the place of exposure.

Despite being awarded such a large amount of money Georgiana Maria saw little of it, if any at all and, by 22nd June 1827, found herself in the debtor’s court.  The Petitions and Schedules of the Prisoners described her as... 

Hutchinson, Georgiana Maria, otherwise and for some time called Georgiana Maria Sarrazin, as the supposed wife of General Sarrazin (sued as and lately called or known by the name of Georgiana Hutchinson), formerly of East-Lane, Walworth, Surrey, then of Paris, France, then of St. Hellier, in the Island of Jersey, then of Judd-Street, Brunswick-Square, both in Middlesex, then of Clare-Cottage, Water-Lane, Brixton, then of Queen's Row, Walworth, both in Surrey, and late of Highgate-Hill, Middlesex, Schoolmistress.

On the 30th June 1828 Georgiana Maria Sarrazin of High Wycombe Bucks wrote her will leaving everything (whatever that may have been at that stage) to her only child Frances Mary Emily; a codicil mentions Mary Fosse, the witnesses to the will being Mary Fosse and Amy Albertina Hutchinson. The same day she died of measles and was reported in the newspaper as being the youngest daughter of the late Capt Samuel Hutchinson of the Horse Guards and Deputy Consul at the Brille in Holland.

Sarrazin was sentenced to twenty years hard labour, pardoned three years later and he took refuge in Lisbon.  After this he was reputed to be leading a sad and transient life in Holland, England, Turkey and Germany. In May of 1825 Sarrazin received a letter from his estranged son Frederic informing him that his mother, Cecilia had died on the 7th April 1820 and that as her son he had been left 60,000 Swiss Francs and a home in Chur, Switzerland. Frederic was at that time a lieutenant in the 5th Prussian infantry regiment. Sarrazin despised the army of the King of Prussia and recommended that his son join him in London and to bring with him all the money his mother had left him notwithstanding that he previously denied to everyone that he actually had a son!  By the end of July Sarrazin had a change of heart and advised Frederic not to come to London as the English did not like foreigners in their army and that he had lied about the Prussian army. 

Still obsessed with money, in November 1838 he stated that in a letter that he was still owed arrears of pay as General from August 1798 amounting to some one million Swiss Francs; plus 76,000 French Francs as commander of the Legion of Honour from January 1810; plus silver seized by the Minister of Police in August 1810 – 40,000 French Francs; monies from books he published had published in England and France amounting to 10,000 French Francs; damages caused by judges and jurors in Paris for false imprisonment between the 8th October 1818 and the 9th of October four million French Francs; making a total exceeding five million Francs.  

In March of 1834 the elder sister of his second wife Georgiana visited Sarrazin in Chelsea and asked him to make a pension for his daughter, Frances. There are no clues as to whether he complied with this; however, given everything we know of him, it seems highly unlikely!

Exactly where he died still remains an unsolved mystery at present, but it was on the 11th November 1848, aged 78, somewhere in Brussels but it seems likely that very few would have grieved his passing. 

About the Authors

Sarah and Jo are genealogists and history detectives who love nothing more than unearthing little or unknown facts about people and filling in the gaps in their lives. They have now ventured into the exciting world of writing and are working on four books plus our blog.  

Their stories are factual, the first being the story of a Georgian lady who was abducted and  raped during her teenage years, was in prison in France during the French Revolution and who went on to become a spy for the British government. The second tells the story of the well known courtesan Grace Eliot née Dalrymple in a totally new way; they have some exciting new information on her that they can't wait to share. The next two books interlink with Grace's story.  

This post copyright © Sarah Murden and Jo Major Elliot, 2014.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

From Dublin to the Moon: John Thomas Romney Robinson

John Thomas Romney Robinson (Dublin, Ireland, 23rd April 1792 - Armagh, Ireland, 28th February 1882)

John Thomas Romney Robinson

We Georgians were fascinated by the heavens above and the era spawned a host of celebrated astronomers, some of whom we have previously welcomed to the salon. Our guest today is John Thomas Romney Robinson, who came from an artistic background to a career in science and astronomy and eventually gave his name to a crater on the Moon.

Robinson was born the son of artist Thomas Robinson and his wife, Ruth Buck, but his interests were squarely in the scientific and after completing his schooling at Belfast Academy, he moved on to study at Trinity College in Dublin. 

Like so many of the previous scientists we have met, Robinson was ordained as a priest during his studies yet it was in his scientific studies that he really excelled and in 1814 accepted a fellowship of the College, where he went on to teach natural philosophy. He married Elizabeth Rambaut in 1821 and following her death 18 years later would marry again, this time to Lucy Jane Edgeworth.

John Thomas Romney Robinson by James Simonton, c. 1850
John Thomas Romney Robinson photographed by James Simonton, c. 1850

Robinson complemented his professorial role by serving as an Anglican priest, though he gave up both his ministry and professorship to take up a position at the Armagh Observatory, where he would remain until his death. Throughout his career Robinson strove to be at the forefront of astronomy, producing groundbreaking research on starscapes and galaxies. His research was widely celebrated and he received many decorations from contemporaries, eventually dying at the age of 89 whilst working at the Armagh Observatory. 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Mysterious "Suicide" of Pierre-Charles Villeneuve

Pierre-Charles Villeneuve (Pierre-Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Silvestre de Villeneuve; Valensole, France, 31st December 1763 – Rennes, France, 22nd April 1806) 

Pierre-Charles Villeneuve

On this day in 1806, a man lay dead in the Hôtel de la Patrie in Rennes. He had suffered seven stab wounds, six that perforated his left lung and one that punctured his heart. The tragedy was one that sparked interest across Europe because the man who met his end in such violent circumstances was Vice Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, French commander at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Villeneuve's reputation had not fared well in the aftermath of the famed battle. Delays of his own making had seen his fleet sit at Cádiz in direct contradiction of orders from his superiors to engage the British. When the fleet under Villeneuve's command finally set sail  his earlier delay resulted in his being intercepted off Cape Trafalgar. The engagement that followed has become legendary and Villeneuve was captured in the aftermath of the battle and taken to England.

Upon his release, Villeneuve returned to France and here made a request to return to naval service. It was while he was waiting to hear the response to this request that Villeneuve died in his lonely hotel room, and chatter immediately began as to who might have been behind the apparent attack. The dead man was laid to rest after dark and without honours, his name one that the French government and military preferred not to celebrate.

To the amusement of the British press and public, the seven stab wounds were ruled to be self-inflicted and the inquest was neatly closed. In England though, whispers grew in volume that Napoleon had arranged for his former commander to be murdered in revenge for the debacle of Trafalgar. 

 Though it may seem unlikely that more than half a dozen stab wounds were self-inflicted, we have certainly seen stranger suicides here at the Guide. Villeneuve felt strongly the weight of Trafalgar and Napoleon's displeasure and perhaps the official silence that met his pleas for a return to service were enough to drive him to suicide, though whether a man could pierce his own vital organs quite so comprehensively without being weakened by shock and blood loss seems like something of a stretch. The truth will never be told, of course, and it remains a sad end to a sometimes checkered career.

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Monday, 21 April 2014

The Ill-Fated Archduchess Elisabeth of Austria

Duchess Elisabeth of Württemberg (Elisabeth Wilhelmine Luise; Treptow, Brandenburg, Germany, 21st April 1767 - Vienna, Austria, 18th February 1790)

Elisabeth of Württemberg by Johann Baptist von Lampi the Elder, 1785
Duchess Elisabeth of Württemberg by Johann Baptist von Lampi the Elder, 1785

Our guest today is, perhaps, a lesser known member of European nobility. Despite a long-planned and illustrious political marriage, Elisabeth was fated to live a short life. Although she was to become a favourite of an ailing Emperor and married an Emperor-in-waiting, her ill health ensured that she was never to see her own husband assume the throne of the Holy Roman Empire.

Elisabeth was one of a dozen offspring born to Frederick II Eugene, Duke of Württemberg,  and his wife, Sophia Dorothea of Brandenburg-Schwedt. Like so many children of her class, it was intended from the start that she would make an expedient political marriage and negotiations swiftly began to secure her a fiancé. The groom-to-be was eventually named as Francis, nephew of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II and the man who would one day hold that title himself.

Elisabeth of Württemberg by Johann Baptist von Lampi the Elder
Duchess Elisabeth of Württemberg by Johann Baptist von Lampi the Elder

When Elisabeth was 15 she travelled from Brandenburg to Vienna and took up resident with the sisters of the Salesianerinnenkloster. In her new home she converted to Catholicism in preparation for her marriage and completed her education. Here she remained until 1788 when, on 6th January, she married the twenty year old Francis. As the couple settled into life together the new Archduchess swiftly became a favourite of her new husband's uncle, Emperor Joseph II, who had brokered the marriage to his nephew. He found her charming and refreshing company and she came to view Joseph in a grandfatherly light, spending long hours in his company. Her affection was of great comfort to the Emperor; his health was falling and he had faced a series of high profile political failures that left him disillusioned and unhappy.

Francis I by Leopold Kupelwieser, 1805
Francis I by Leopold Kupelwieser, 1805

In late 1789 Elisabeth fell pregnant and her condition was to have a huge impact on her health. The cheerful, charming young lady grew weaker by the day and after she attended the Emperor's Anointing of the Sick on 15th February 1790, Elisabeth passed out and was rushed to her chambers. Two days later she went into labour and suffered for a day and night before she gave birth to the extremely premature Archduchess Ludovika Elisabeth on 18th February. Although the little girl would survive for 16 months, Elisabeth passed away within hours of delivering her daughter and just two days later, her beloved uncle-in-law also lay dead.

The ill-fated Archduchess was interred in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna; her infant daughter and the deceased Emperor were laid to rest in the same crypt.

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Sunday, 20 April 2014

A Salon Guest... The Siege of Louisbourg

It is a pleasure to welcome a guest to the salon today with his tale of the Siege of Louisbourg. CW Lovatt knows more than a thing or two about this decisive incident and it forms the backdrop of his novel, Josiah Stubb. Without further ado, I shall leave you in the hands of our estimable host for the day!


Louisbourg was a fortress town on the northeastern coast of Cape Breton Island (or ‘Ile Royale’ as it was known by the French) in the eighteenth century. With its own excellent harbour, capable of holding an entire fleet of men-of-war, it served to protect French interests in the vital cod industry, as well as the gateway to the St. Lawrence River, and the heart of New France at Quebec. Built at a cost of over thirty million livres, it was deemed to be impregnable.

The following deals with the siege of 1758, during The Seven Years War, which is the time that my novel, “Josiah Stubb,” takes place. I’ll try to keep it brief.

Two very important factors that lead to the death of Louisbourg happened many months before the invasion armada was ever seen from its ramparts. The first was the coming to power of William Pitt, whose global strategy was to offer only a token force on the European continent, along with subsidies to finance the armies of Britain’s allies, while using the bulk of her own army and navy to wage war on the colonies of her ancient enemy, bringing her economy to ruin, and ultimately forcing her to sue for peace.

The second factor made the first all the more viable – the Royal Navy’s victory at the Battle of Cartagena, leading to the remainder of the French navy being bottled up in their harbours. A previous attempt had been made on Louisbourg in 1757, but the presence of a sizeable enemy fleet, and an untimely hurricane, assured its failure. This time, with the French unable to venture out from their ports, there would be no major naval force in attendance, and very little in the way of reinforcements. New France was on its own.

Another important contributing factor that I forgot to mention earlier, is Pitt’s habit of promoting officers based on competence and their willingness to fight, while throwing the older custom of patronage and seniority in the dustbin. Thus it is that James Wolfe, a shiny new brigadier, makes his appearance on the stage.

A British armada of forty warships, and a hundred and fifty transports, arrived off the coast of Ile Royale in early June, 1758. In the holds were 14,000 regular line troops, along with a few companies of Rangers, formed from the southern colonies. Wild and relatively undisciplined, the Rangers were new. Considered Light Infantry, each man was picked for his marksmanship and knowledge in bush-fighting. Their roll would be to take on the Indians and Canadians, who had caused so much havoc with Braddock at the Monongahela River three years earlier. In the oncoming weeks, they would prove to be very effective.

After waiting several days for the waters to calm sufficiently, the British attempted a landing on the eighth of June, about five miles below the fortress, on the Gabarus Bay littoral. The windswept shores of Cape Breton are rocky and inhospitable at the best of times, with possible landing sites few and far between, so the options of the naval officers had dwindled to the meager four hundred yards of beach at Fresh Water Cove. Of course the French were well aware of this, and had troops and artillery in abundance, well dug in, to oppose any attempt at a landing.

They very nearly succeeded.

The French held their fire until the leading wave of boats were within pistol-shot. Then they let loose with a barrage so savage that the British were stunned, helpless on the water, sitting ducks for following salvos.

What followed was pure luck.

In an effort to avoid the withering fire, three boats of the 35th regiment veered off course until they had rounded a small headland on the extreme right of the cove, scarcely noticeable, but just enough of a promontory to put them beyond the line of fire. Here they were also beyond the gentle sand of the beach, and as they were unable to land, seemed out of the fight. However, a closer inspection of the shore revealed clefts in the rock just wide enough to allow one or two boats to close at a time, and this they were allowed to do, out of sight and unhindered. So landed the first few dozen; most taking cover in a small copse of trees, while others frantically signaled for the rest of the boats to follow.

This happened piecemeal, for Wolfe, commanding the attack, and unaware that any of his men had reached the shore, had ordered a retreat. But of course this order was rescinded when more and more realized the good fortune of their comrades. 

Gradually, very gradually, this precarious toehold was reinforced as more and more boats came in. Soon the landing was packed, each boat impatiently awaiting their turn to disembark. Feeling the sense of urgency, some did not wait to reach the cleft, but jumped overboard and attempted to wade to the shore. Some made it, many were drowned in the heavy seas. Other boats, venturing too close, were picked up by the waves and smashed against the rocks, their occupants sent tumbling senseless into the water. In fact, it was at this point that the British suffered their greatest casualties of the entire battle, and not to the murderous salvos of the enemy.

Eventually perceiving this new threat, the French attempted to contain it with a small detachment of irregulars. Had they mounted a more determined effort, they would undoubtedly have forced the British back into the sea with very little trouble, but instead, unsure of the numbers they faced, they were content to exchange musket fire until reinforcements became available, but that moment never arrived.

It was the British who gradually gained superiority in numbers, and when Wolfe was finally able to land, they advanced, sweeping away the irregulars, and continuing without pause, rolled the enemy from their entrenchments when they found themselves being attacked from the rear.

The advance continued without pause, chasing the French all the way back to the fortress. The victory had been so complete, and the French retreat so precipitate, that their cannon were captured before they could be spiked, and most of their provisions still in the trenches. This was fortunate for the British, as the seas grew rough again the next day, and continued so for several days thereafter, making it impossible to land their own supplies.

Once having affected a landing, the odds of a British victory increased immensely, although it was still far from a foregone conclusion. Louisbourg, her walls bristling with defenders, and her harbour with a squadron of men-of-war, still remained defiant, and not without reason. If the siege could be drawn out until the onset of winter, the British would have little choice but to withdraw. Therefore time was of the utmost importance.

Within days of the victory at Fresh Water Cove, and with the seas still too rough to allow the landing of either provisions or siege guns, on the twelfth of June the Commander in Chief, General Amherst, ordered Wolfe to circumnavigate the harbour with twelve hundred picked men, and seize the high ground at Lighthouse Point, across the harbour’s mouth. The route took the British to well within the range of the fortress’ guns, but owing to heavy fog, the position was taken without suffering any casualties. The redcoats arrived only to find that the French had abandoned it, and tumbled their heavy guns off the cliffs into the sea.

Five days later, the weather grew calm, and the British preparations continued much more rapidly. On the nineteenth of June, a battery of five guns was in place, and began to engage the Island Battery guarding the mouth of the harbour, and the five French men-of-war inside. 

Meanwhile, more and more cannon and provisions continued to land, and while the senior brigadiers, Lawrence and Whitmore, began the arduous process of approaching the walls via parallels dug into the boggy, rock-ridden ground for the main attack, Wolfe raced with impetuous speed, installing more and more batteries around the periphery of the harbour, drawing ever closer to the fortress.

The Island Battery was silenced on the twenty-fifth of June, and the French men-of-war, fearful of the British heated shot, retreated so close to the fortress walls that they were left aground at low tide.

As more and more guns became available, Wolfe continued his advance until he reached the abandoned Royal Battery, midway to the fortress. On the first of July the French attempted a sortie to destroy this position, but were driven back, and even more high ground was taken to the northeast. A further battery was duly installed here, and commenced fire on July fifth, soon causing considerable damage to the walls and the town.

On the ninth of July the French sent a night sortie of over seven hundred men against the parallel being dug for the main attack under Lawrence and Whitmore, capturing men and entrenching tools. They were driven back with loss during the confusing melee that followed. However, this foray was a waste of both time and lives, as this ‘main attack’ was never brought to fruition.

By now Wolfe had completed a line of batteries on the heights, from the Royal Battery to the Barachois Inlet, opposite the Dauphin Bastion, the northernmost bastion of the fortress. 

Then, on the sixteenth of July, in a move that best displays his sheer audacity more than any other single act, Wolfe leads a night attack to capture Gallows Hill, a mere three hundred meters from the Dauphin Bastion! The French respond with a furious barrage, but morning finds the British in strength on the hill, already dug in.

Now Amherst is forced to change his strategy. The main attack, favoured by his chief engineer, as well as his most senior generals, is largely abandoned without yet having fired a shot in anger. This new position on Gallows Hill is reinforced with men and another battery, and a new parallel is begun. By the twenty-first of July it has reached to within two hundred meters of the fortress.

Also on that day, a red-hot shot from the battery at Lighthouse Point strikes the French warship, Célébre, setting her ablaze. The French men-of-war are so crowded together under the fortress’ walls that soon the fire spreads to the Capricieux and L’Entreprenant. At 2:00 A.M. L’Entreprenant explodes. By morning the other two ships have burned to the waterline, leaving the French with only two ships to defend the harbour from the eighteen hundred guns of the British fleet.

By the twenty-fourth of July, after enduring almost a month of a merciless barrage, a breach in the fortress wall is close to being practicable. By now the French can reply with only four guns of their own.

The coupe de gras comes on the night of the twenty-fifth, when, with the army staging a feint to the north, the navy sends, not their ships of the line, but sixty small boats, carrying six hundred men, into the harbour to attack the remaining two French men-of-war, now manned only with skeleton crews. The Prudent is burned, and the Bienfaisant captured, leaving the harbour defenceless.

On July twenty-sixth a flag of truce is seen hoisted over what is left of the Dauphin Bastion. The French accept the British demand of unconditional surrender later that same day. 

About the Author

CW Lovatt, is the award-winning author of numerous short stories, as well as the best-selling novel, “The Adventures of Charlie Smithers.”  He lives in Canada, and is the self-appointed Writer-in-Residence of Carroll, Manitoba (population +/- 20.)

Josiah Stubb: The Siege of Louisbourg is available to buy now from Amazon UK, and on Amazon US in paperback and on Kindle.

Written content of this post copyright © CW Lovatt 2014