Sophie is seven months pregnant when she starts writing this set of entries. At their close she mentions the Christening of their second son, William, styled The Honourable William Petty, who died before his tenth birthday but nonetheless outlived his mother by seven years.
Saturday, August 20th . I had the pleasure of coming to Shelburne House from whence I continue this Diary. My Lord was just going to Council as I arrived, with Lord Granby; we had some little conversation upon the steps, and I had full time to walk over and examine the house. It is very noble, and I am much pleas'd with it, tho' perhaps few people wou'd have come to live in it in so unfurnished a state.
August 25th. After dinner my Lord, Mr. Townshend, and Mr. Adams set out for Bowood, where he is also to give Lord Shelburne some plans of buildings, and of joyning the house and offices by an additional apartment.
September 18th. They told me of a very extraordinary match of Augustus Harvey with Miss Hunter. In order to its being accomplished it is necessary he should own his marriage, and be divorc'd from Miss Chudleigh, which it is said he sent to her to propose. She answered that she had no objection, but must in honour acquaint him that the moment he declar'd himself her husband, he would become responsible for a debt of sixteen thousand pounds.
October 20th. I should not omit a very essential event: Lord Shelburne's resignation of the Seals as Secretary of State. It was preceded a week before by Lord Chatham's of which, however my Lord had no intelligence, it being transacted very privately between him and the King, to whom he wrote himself. A report prevail'd in town of its having taken place in consequence of a letter to him from the Duke of Grafton, proposing to remove Lord Shelburne, which it is said Lord Chatham answered only by enclosing the above-mention'd letter of resignation to the Duke of Grafton, and desiring him to deliver it to the King.
November 6th. My Lord went this morning to Hayes to see Lord Chatham, return'd late, and dined only with Mr. Fitzmaurice and me, to whom he told part of his conversation with Lady Chatham, having had only a glympse of my Lord as he was coming down stairs. It tended to confirm the truth of the report I mention'd before, and to prove that neither the Chancellor nor my Lord Bristol had his authority for continuing to hold or accept a place with the present Administration. I was call'd away in the middle of this by the arrival of Lady Jane Macartney and of Miss Murray. After they were gone Lord Shelburne and Colonel Barré came and sat with me and renewed the conversation of Lord Chatham, till Mr. Price, whom we had sent for to christen our little boy, arrived from Wycombe and sup'd with us.
Tuesday, February 23rd. Lord Rochfort told Mme. de Viri the first of a very sad story that has since that time been but too truly verify'd, of Lady Sarah Bunbury having elop'd from Sir Charles with Lord William Gordon.
Notes on people, places, and events mentioned in these diary entries.
Shelburne House. This was the Shelburne's mansion on Berkeley Square in London, described and pictured in notes on the 6th Diary post. It later became (and still is) known as Lansdowne House. As she says, in Sophie's time, it was a work in progress. The Wikipedia article on it is concise and useful. This photo gives an idea of the interior. It shows part of the Robert Adam dining room, described here; click to enlarge
Lord Granby. This was John Manners, Marquess of Granby, famous British soldier and member of the cabinet.
Mr. Townshend. This is James Townshend, who was described in notes on the 3rd Diary post.
Mr. Adams. This is Robert Adam. About him, see notes on the 3rd Diary post.
Bowood. See notes on the 5th Diary post.
The very extraordinary match of Augustus Harvey with Miss Hunter. The name is usually given as Hervey. The portrait to the right shows Kitty Hunter. Here is the story from Robert Chambers in his Book of Days. It's rather long but quite good.
THE DUCHESS OF KINGSTON
As an example of the adventuress, amid several notabilities of a like kind, in the earlier half of the reign of George III, Elizabeth Chudleigh, Duchess of Kingston, is prominently distinguished. She was the daughter of Colonel Chudleigh, a gentle-man of good family in Devonshire, who, through his friendship with Mr. Pulteney, obtained for his daughter the post of maid of honour to the Princess of Wales, mother of George III. Her natural talents and attractions were here cultivated and developed, and the charms of her manners and conversation soon surrounded her with a host of distinguished and enthusiastic admirers.
One of the most conspicuous of these was the Duke of Hamilton, who made her an offer of his hand, and was accepted. Circumstances, however, prevented their immediate union; the parties agreed to hold themselves as engaged, and the duke set out on a tour on the continent, from which he regularly corresponded with Miss Chudleigh. In the meantime, Captain Hervey, son of the Earl of Bristol, came forward as a suitor, under the auspices of Miss Chudleigh's aunt, Mrs. Hanmer, who is said to have intercepted the Duke of Hamilton's letters, and otherwise exerted her influence to the utmost with her niece, to induce her to discard him for the captain. A volatile and impetuous disposition, guided apparently by no high or abiding principle, induced Miss Chudleigh, without much difficulty, to receive Hervey's addresses, and they were privately married at Lainston, near Winchester. This ill-advised step proved the foundation of all her subsequent perplexities.
Fearing the effects of his father's anger, Captain Hervey dared not venture to acknowledge his marriage, and his wife had to endure all the inconveniences which a woman must submit to, who is placed in such a position. She seems almost immediately after the conclusion of the match, to have repented of her precipitancy. Indifference was followed by positive aversion, and though one son was born of the union, who soon quitted the world, as he had entered it, in secrecy and obscurity, a lasting estrangement took place between the parents.
Captain Hervey, whose jealousy was violently excited by the attentions paid to his wife as Miss Chudleigh, gradually changed his line of conduct, and threatened to proclaim their marriage to the public, whilst she became only more determined to find some pretext for its legal dissolution. With this view, she is said to have gained access to the register in which her wedding was recorded, and destroyed the evidence of it, by tearing out the leaf. The officiating clergyman was now dead. But not long afterwards, her husband succeeded, by the death of his father, to the earldom of Bristol, upon which a revulsion took place in her crooked policy, and she contrived, by bribing the officiating clerk, to get her marriage reinserted in the same register from which she had previously torn the record. So far for the first acts of this singular drama.
From the aristocratic circles amid which Miss Chudleigh reigned as queen, the Duke of Kingston now stepped forth, and proffered her his hand. He appears to have possessed many good qualities, being mild and unassuming in his manners, the very reverse of his mistress, whose love of admiration had been the great occasion of her errors. There can be no doubt that an illicit intercourse had subsisted for some time betwixt them; but the duke's attachment to her seems to have been sincere.
The Earl of Bristol had now himself become desirous of severing his nuptial tics, and he therefore was readily induced to concur in a process of jactitation of marriage in the ecclesiastical courts, which, by an adroit suppression of evidence, terminated in a decree of nullification. The path being thus, in their opinion, cleared, the union of the duke and Miss Chudleigh was publicly solemnised. For some years the duchess basked in all the sunshine of wealth and exalted position, when at last her husband died. By his will the duke was found to have devised his estates to one of his younger nephews, excluding the heir at law, and bequeathing to his wife the enjoyment of the rents of the property during her life.
The duchess being aware of the contents of the will, and of certain restrictions which had been imposed on her marrying again, had endeavoured, though ineffectually, to procure before the duke's death the execution of a more favourable deed. The elder nephew, whose claims to the succession had been ignored, resolved to dispute the validity of his uncle's will. Through information received from a Mrs. Cradock, who had been one of the witnesses to the marriage of Miss Chudleigh with Captain Hervey, and had afterwards, as she deemed, been rather shabbily treated by the duchess, he instituted against the latter an indictment for bigamy. She had previously to this quitted the kingdom for the continent, but on receiving intelligence of these proceedings, deemed it prudent to return to England, to avoid an outlawry.
The trial (pictured at right, click to enlarge) commenced on 15th April 1776, before the House of Peers, in Westminster Hall, which was filled by a distinguished audience, including Queen Charlotte and several members of the royal family. The evidence of the marriage with Captain Hervey having been produced, and the whole matter carefully sifted, the peers unanimously found the duchess guilty of bigamy, with the exception of the Duke of Newcastle, who pronounced her guilty 'erroneously but not intentionally.' The consequences of this sentence would have been the issuing of a writ Ne exeat regno to prevent her quitting the country, but before it could be completed, she contrived to escape to Calais, from which she never returned.
The heirs of the Duke of Kingston, having thus succeeded in nullifying his marriage, now endeavoured to get his will set aside; but in this they were thoroughly unsuccessful. The duchess was left to the undisturbed enjoyment of her large income, which she dissipated in the indulgence of all sorts of luxury. She had already purchased a house at Calais, but it was inadequate to her ideas of splendour, and she accordingly entered into terms for the purchase of another at Montmartre, in the suburbs of Paris. A dispute with the owner of this property gave rise to a litigation, during the dependence of which she made a journey to St. Petersburg, and there entered into some speculations connected with the distilling of brandy. She subsequently returned to France, and became the purchaser of a fine domain in the neighbourhood of Paris, belonging to a brother of Louis XVI, the reigning sovereign.
The investment proved a good one, the immense number of rabbits on the property furnishing a most lucrative return. As much as 300 guineas is said to have been realized by her from this source alone in the first week of her possession. But the end was now approaching. In the midst of this temporal prosperity, intelligence was one day brought her, that judgment had been pronounced against her in the suit regarding the house at Montmartre. So great an agitation was produced on her by this news, that she ruptured a blood. vessel, and was obliged to confine herself to her bed. In the course of a few days she seemed to rally, and insisted on getting up and having herself dressed. Her attendant vainly endeavoured to dissuade her, and she then called for a glass of Madeira, which she drank, and insisted on a second being brought. This also she drank off, and then said she should like to lie down. Having stretched herself on a couch, she soon appeared to fall asleep, and remained in this state for some time, when her servants felt an unusual coldness in her hands, and on examining more closely, found that she had passed away. Such was her end, to die among strangers in a foreign land—a fitting termination, perhaps, to her chequered and singular career.
One circumstance in connection with the Duchess of Kingston ought not to be passed over in silence. We allude to her well-known fracas with Samuel Foote. That celebrated wit and dramatist, who derived a considerable portion of his fame from the personalities which he introduced into his literary lucubrations, produced a farce, entitled A Trip to Calais, in which he brought forward the duchess under the title of 'Lady Kitty Crocodile.' His procedure in this transaction reflects little credit either on his character as a man or policy as a schemer. The duchess would have willingly paid him a handsome sum to withdraw the piece; but, in the hopes of obtaining a larger consideration, he out-maneuvered himself; whilst she, by her interest with parties in power, contrived to have the representation of the play interdicted by the lord-chamberlain, and also its publication, for the time at least, prevented.
Lord Shelburne's resignation of the Seals. The author of the Shelburne biography explains in a footnote: "Chatham had resigned on the ground that he believed that Shelburne was about to be dismissed, and he treated Shelburne's resignation under the circumstances as practically the same thing as a dismissal, and in any case as carrying with it the same results as regarded American policy" (i, 398).
Lord Chatham. Victorian Web's article on Grafton describes the political events of this time well.
Duke of Grafton. Pictured at right. See these sites on him: Victorian Web, Wikipedia, and Archontology.
Hayes. This was Chatham's family home and his birthplace.
Mr. Fitzmaurice. Shelburne's brother, Thomas.
Lady Chatham. This was Hester Pitt, Baroness Chatham, wife of William Pitt, who had just become first earl of Chatham. She wss daughter of Hester countess Temple.
Lord Bristol. This was George Hervey, 2nd Earl of Bristol, who preceeded Lord Townshend as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
Lady Jane Macartney. Daughter of the 3rd Earl of Bute, She had just married George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney. He was a colonial administrator and diplomat.
Miss Murray. Not identified.
Colonel Barré. On Colonel Issac Barré, see the 3rd Diary post.
Mr. Price. This was Richard Price, dissenting minister, moral and political philosopher, and one of the savants in the Bowood Circle which Shelburne had brought together. Others included Jeremy Bentham and Joseph Priestly.
Our little boy. As I say above, this was the Shelburne's second son, William, styled The Honourable William Petty, who died before his tenth birthday but nonetheless outlived Sophie by seven years.
Wycombe. This was a second country estate of the Shelburne's. See note in the 5th Diary post.
Lord Rochfort. Not identified.
Mme. de Viri. Not identified.
Lady Sarah Bunbury, Sir Charles Bunbury, and Lord William Gordon. Lady Sarah's elopment caused a stir:
[The divorce of] Lady Sarah Lennox 1745-1826 and her first husband Sir Charles Bunbury 1740-1821 was one of the most notorious [of the 18th century]. She was sued for divorce because of her adultery with William Gordon. During the trial, interestingly, the Bunbury servants were called on to give evidence against their former mistress.Lady Sarah Bunbury, being of a loose and abandoned disposition and beiing wholly unmindful of her conjugal vow etc., did carrry on a lewd and adulterous conversation with Lord William Gordon.Bunbury still sued despite the fact that he knew Gordon was not wealthy, despite being a member, like Sarah of a Ducal family. Lady Sarah's marriage contract was nullified and any future issue was unable to claim on Bunbury's estate, though her daughter, legally Bunbury's, was actually Gordon's child and Sarah had split from Gordon in 1769, the Divorce Act went through only in 1776. This was the year that Lady Sarah met the aristocratic George Napier 1751-1804, by whom she had a large and respectable family who founded a dynasty of great soldiers.