Edward Walford.

Tales of our great families. 2d series (Volume 1) online

. (page 7 of 16)
Online LibraryEdward WalfordTales of our great families. 2d series (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

however, perpetually annoyed her, and, to des-
troy all trace of it, she went with a party of
friends to the parish where it had been celebrated,
and, having asked for the register book, tore out
the record of her marriage while the clergyman


was in conversation with the rest of the party.

Shortly afterwards, Captain Hervey becoming
Earl of Bristol by the death of his father, and
a rumour prevailing that he was in a declining
state of health, Miss Chudleigh, now Countess
of Bristol, hoping to be soon a wealthy dowager,
obtained the restoration of the entry in the regis-
ter. Fortune, however, was against her, and
she found that by her precipitate act she had
outwitted herself; as, to her great disappoint-
ment, the Earl her husband took it into his head
to recover his health and strength, and she found
herself once more a wife, and yet not a wife.

How far her marriage with Mr. Hervey had
ever leaked out into the ears of " society" is not
very clear; but it is an axiom in the highest
circles, I believe, that, as sin is not sin in the
" elect" of Calvin, so " vice is not vice in a
duchess" And, therefore, even if the real state
of the case was known to some of her friends,
there was no one at hand to " forbid the banns,"
when, in March, 1769, she publicly married
Evelyn Pierrepont, Duke of Kingston, a not very
wise old gentleman, who was somewhat of an
invalid, and whose death might be expected in
the course of nature at no distant date.

While the arrangements for this second alliance
were pending, she made a variety of unavailing

I 2


proposals to Lord Bristol to agree to a divorce,
and even offered to facilitate it by some flagrant
misconduct of her own before the eyes of all.
But he refused. Luckily, however, the Earl
found another lady who pleased him better,
having plenty of cash at her banker's ; and in
the course of a few months a sentence of divorce
was pronounced by the Ecclesiastical Courts at
Doctors'-Commons, and the marriage was solem-
nised as I have related.

Elizabeth Chudleigh was now at all events, if
not a countess, at least an honest woman, and
(which she valued still more highly) a duchess.
She had gained the height of her ambition, and a
giddy height she found it. She had but mounted

" Undo altior esset
Casus et impulsse prseceps immane ruinse."

The Duke very kindly and conveniently lived
long enough to establish her fairly in the eyes of
the world as his Duchess, and then " died and
slept with his fathers." On opening his Grace's
will it was found that he had bequeathed to her
his entire property, upon condition that she
should never marry again ; and the Duchess
plunged into a course of licentiousness which
exposed her to public censure, and in consequence
of which she went to Italy. A magnificent yacht,


built and ornamented at an immense expense,
conveyed her to Rome, where she was received
with great pomp by the Pope and Cardinals,
who knew but little of her antecedents, and
treated as a princess. During her residence in
Rome she was on the eve of bestowing her hand
and fortune upon an adventurer, who represented
himself to be the Prince of Albania, when he
was apprehended as a swindler, and committed
suicide in prison. Soon afterwards, she learned
that the heirs of the Duke of Kingston sought to
establish against her the charge of bigamy, in
order to invalidate her marriage with the Duke,
and set aside his will. She instantly repaired to
her banker, who, having been gained over by the
other party, concealed himself, to avoid giving
her the sum requisite for a journey to London.
She placed herself at his door, and, pistol in
hand, compelled him to comply with her demand.
Upon her arrival in England she found that her
first marriage had been declared valid, upon the
ground of incompetency in the court which had
pronounced it void. Public opinion was against
her ; and, under the character of Lady Kitty
Crocodile, she was ridiculed by Foote in a comedy
entitled " A Trip to Calais," of which, however,
she succeeded in obtaining the prohibition from
the Lord Chamberlain.


The validity of her first marriage with Mr.
Hervey at Lainston having been established by
witnesses who were present, to the satisfaction
of those of the Duke's relatives who had an
interest in setting aside his will, it was resolved
that she should be publicly indicted for bigamy,
and that her trial should be really a state trial,
being held in Westminster Hall, the House of
Peers sitting as her judges.

Finding it necessary to return to England, as
already stated, in order to meet the charges which
were being made publicly against her, the Duchess
embarked for Dover, and reaching London, drove
straight to her house at Knightsbridge, where she
found plenty of friends ready to espouse her
cause amongst others the Earl of Mansfield and
the Duke of Newcastle. Anxious, apparently,
to turn to the best account the weary weeks which
must intervene before the day of the trial, and to
advertise herself, and to rouse if possible the
men in her cause, even if she scandalised the
fairer portion of creation, she resolved to put in
her appearance once more in some place of public
resort, and accordingly the next night she
attended a masked ball at the residence of Mrs.
Comely s, at Carlisle House, Soho- square.

She appeared on this occasion as ' Iphigenia'.
There is a print which represents her in this


character, and which fully justifies the sarcastic
terms in which Horace Walpole alludes to it.

Meanwhile the attention of the world was
concentrated on the expected trial, to which
Horace Walpole often alludes in a vein of banter
which shows that he considered the Duchess no
better than she ought to be. He writes to his
friend Sir Horace Mann, in Italy, March 22, in
that year: "Everybody is on the quest for
tickets for her Grace of Kingston's trial. I am
persuaded that her impudence will operate in
some singular manner ; probably she will appeal-
in weeds, with a train to reach across Westminster
Hall, with mourning maids of honour to support
her when she swoons at her dear Duke's name,
and in a black veil to conceal her blushing
or not blushing. To this farce, novel and
curious as it will be, I shall not go. I think
cripples have no business in crowds, but at the
Pool of Bethesda ; and to be sure this is no angel
that troubles the waters."

The trial was a matter which, for weeks before
it came on, absorbed the public attention to an
extent which has never since been equalled,
except by the trial of the impostor Orton who
wanted to palm himself off as a Tichborne. It
was attended by Queen Charlotte, the Prince of
Wales, by most of _the members of the Royal


Family, the foreign ambassadors, Members of
Parliament, and other distinguished personages.
The Duchess, in deep mourning, took her seat
unmoved, attended by two femmes de chambre,
a physician, an apothecary, her secretary, and a
formidable army of defenders in the shape of
six barristers in wig and gown. I have before me
a picture of the Duchess standing at the bar and
pleading her own cause ; and if, as I have reason
to think, it is a sketch from life, there can be no
doubt that she was a woman well able to hold
her own, even before the most august assembly
in England.

As usual, it is from the chatty pages of Horace
Walpole that we learn nearly all that is known
of the way in which " society" at the time regarded
the trial of her Grace the Duchess of Kingston.
He did not go actually to see it or hear it, for he
" hated crowds," and viewed the chief actor or
actress with no favourable eye ; but he describes
the scene in Westminster Hall almost as vividly
as if he had been present in this letter to Sir
Horace Mann, April 17, 1776:

" We think and talk but of one subject the
solemn comedy that is acting in Westminster
Hall. Deep wagers had been laid that the
Duchess would decamp before the trial came on.
This, with a million of other stories, has been so


spread that I am determined to believe no one
fact but what I shall read in the printed trial ;
for at it I have not been, though curious enough
about so august a mummery and so original a
culprit. . . . The scene opened on Wednesday
with all its pomp . . . and the doubly noble
prisoner went through her part with universal
admiration. Instead of her usual ostentatious
folly and clumsy pretensions to cunning, all her
conduct was decent, and even seemed natural.
Her dress was entirely black and plain ; her
attendants not too numerous ; her dismay at first
perfectly unaffected. A few tears balanced
cheerfulness enough, and her presence of mind
and attention never deserted her. This rational
behaviour and the pleadings of her four counsel,
who contended for the finality of her Ecclesiastical
Court's sentence against a second trial, carried
her triumphantly through the first day, and
turned the stream much in her favour."

The next day she was less successful, and, in
consequence, " had to be blooded as soon as she
retired, and fell into a great passion of tears."
And probably Horace Walpole, at this time, was
not singular in thinking that the Ecclesiastical
Courts were quite as much on their trial as was
her Grace. He adds that Lord Bristol, in his
opinion, did not stand in a fair predicament, for


he had never avowed his marriage with Miss
Chudleigh, and was supposed to have connived
for a sum of money at her marrying the

Ever alive to the last floating rumours and the
gossip of the day, Horace writes to the Rev. W.
Mason, under date April 20, 1776: "The plot
thickens, or rather opens. Yesterday the judges
were called on for their opinions, and und voce
dismantled the Ecclesiastical Court." . . . The
Attorney-General, Thurlow, then detailed the
" Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Chudleigh,
alias Hervey, alias the most high and puissante
princess the Duchess of Kingston." Her Grace
bore the narration with a front worthy of her
exalted rank. Then was produced the first
capital witness, the ancient damsel who was
present at her first marriage. ... To this witness
her Grace was benign, but had a transitory swoon
at the mention of her dear Duke's name ; and at
intervals has been Wooded enough to have
supplied her execution, if necessary. Two babes
were likewise proved to have blessed her first
nuptials, one of whom, for aught that appears,
may exist and become Earl of Bristol."

The register of Chelsea old church has certainly
the following entry, Nov. 2, 1747: "Augustus
Hervey, son of the Hon. Augustus Hervey,


baptised by the Hon. and Rev. Henry Aston ;"
and the discovery of this entry, as Lysons observes,
might have spared many interrogatories at the
Duchess of Kingston's trial.

The trial lasted through several days ; on
Friday the 19th and Saturday the 20th the case
of the Duchess did not gain ground at all, but
rather the reverse. . So much so indeed was this
the case, that one of her friends remarked that
she must have been mad " to have sought the
trial, or not to have poisoned the witnesses." For
instance, there appeared a maid who was present
at her first marriage. Serjeant Hawkins au-
thenticated the birth of at least one child ; and
the widow of the parson who officiated at her first
marriage, and on whom she forced a fictitious
register when she expected Lord Bristol's death
and had a mind to be a countess, deposed that,
though privy to all these circumstances, on
visiting her as Duchess the latter said to her,
" Well, Mrs. Phillips, was not the Duke very
good to marry an old maid like me ?"

And what, the reader will ask, was the end of
this memorable trial ? Elizabeth Chudleigh was
found guilty by the House of Peers, but, " pleading
her privilege" as a peer's wife, she was discharged
without any punishment.

Ou the 23rd of April Walpole writes to his


friend Mason : u The wisdom of the land has
been exerted for five days in turning a duchess
into a countess, and yet does not think it a
punishable crime for a countess to convert herself
into a duchess. After a paltry defence, and a
speech of fifty pages (which she had herself
written, and pronounced very well), the sages,
in spite of the Attorney-General (who brandished
a hot iron), dismissed her with the single in-
junction of paying the fees, all voting her guilty,
but the Duke of Newcastle her neighbour in the
country softening his vote by adding ' erro-
neously, not intentionally.' So ends the solemn
farce. " The Earl of Bristol, they say," adds
Watpole, " does not intend to leave her that
title, nor the house of Medows a shilling. ... I
am glad to have done with her."

Hannah More, who was present among the,
crowd, tells us that she was dressed in deep
mourning, but that hardly a trace of her once
enchanting beauty was visible, and that if it had
not been for her white face, she might easily
have been taken for a bale of bombasin. She
adds that she behaved herself properly and even
with dignity, and that her presence of mind did
not desert her for a single moment.

Undeterred by the threat of a writ ne exeat regno
being issued against her, as soon as the trial was


over the Duchess-countess was off to Calais, and
on her way to Paris. She writes from Calais on
the 26th to a friend, sarcastically remarking that
the peers have recognised her as Countess of
Bristol, the Ecclesiastical Courts as duchess, but
that she still adhered to her own position, and
proudly signed her name to the letter " Elizabeth,
Duchesse de Kingston." She retired to Paris
" incontinently," as the phrase then ran ; and the
writ ne exeat regno was issued just after the bird
was flown. Probably her enemies took good
care not to drive her too closely into a corner,
and felt that it was better for the peace of
London, and of " society," that she should be
on the other side of the Channel. " Don't let us
talk of her any more," writes Horace Walpole ;
he adds in the same breath, " Yes, I must say a
word more. I will tell you what the droll Lord
Abercorn said. Somebody ' hoped that his Lord-
ship had not suffered by the trial.' He replied,
' Oh no, nobody suffered by it.' And, indeed,
though not a comedy, it was a farce."

The subsequent career of the ex-Duchess was
in keeping with her preceding adventures. I have
already mentioned that she was too sharp for the
writ ne exeat regno, and before it could be issued
she had bolted from Knightsbridge, and turned
up at Calais, though there were no railways or


steamers to aid her flight. From Calais she
made her way to Rome, where she contrived to
propitiate the favour of the Pope so far as to be
received by hfm and feted en princesse a good
turn which she requited by a handsome bequest
of jewelry in her will.

After remaining there for some time she re-
turned to Calais, and hired a spacious mansion,
which she furnished splendidly ; but, the monotony
of the town not suiting her volatile and turbulent
disposition, she made a voyage to St Petersburg
in a magnificent yacht, and was received with
the highest distinction by the Empress Catherine,
to whom she presented the valuable collection
of pictures formed by the Kingston family. She
afterwards went to Poland, where Prince Radzivil
gave sumptuous entertainments in honour of her
visit, particularly a bear hunt by torchlight.
Upon returning to France she purchased the
beautiful chateau de Sainte Assize, two leagues
from Fontainebleau, and a mansion at the Rue
Coq Heron at Paris, where she died in 1788,
after executing a will, made by two attorneys
who came from England on purpose. She be-
queathed a set of jewels to the Empress of Russia,
a large diamond to the Pope, and a costly pearl
necklace and earrings to the Countess of Salisbury,
because they had belonged to a lady who bore


that title in the reign of Henry IV. Her property
in France was estimated at .200,000 sterling,
besides which she had valuable possessions in
England and Russia.

The Duchess of Kingston, during her second
noces and in her second widowhood, lived at
Kingston House, Knightsbridge, afterwards
known as Listowel House, and at one time the
residence of the Marquis Wellesley. In allusion
to her connection with this spot, she is spoken of
in a play of the last century as " the notified Bet
Cheatley, Duchess of Knightsbridge." Peter
Cunningham, in his " Handbook of London,"
briefly and tersely disposes of her as "the
profligate and eccentric Duchess." Leigh Hunt,
in bis " Old Court Suburb," styles her " an
adventuress, who after playing tricks with a
parish register for the purpose of alternately
falsifying and substantiating a real marriage,
according as the prospects of her husband varied,
imposed herself upon a duke for a spinster, and
survived him as a duchess until unmasked in a
court of law." He adds his opinion that she was
"a well-born and handsome, but coarse-minded
woman, qualified to impose on none but very
young or very shallow admirers. Her first
husband, who became Earl of Bristol, was at the
time of his marriage with her a young seaman


just out of his teens ; and the Duke, her second
husband, though he was the nephew of Lady
Mary Wortley Montague, appears never to have
outgrown the teens of his understanding." Mr.
Leigh Hunt thus wittily and pithily expresses
his opinion about her : " Hating prolixity and
mock modesty, her maxim . . . was to be ' short,
clear, and surprising ;' so she concentrated her
rhetoric into swearing, and dressed in a style
next door to nakedness. The wealth, however,
which was bequeathed to her by the Duke enabled
her, in spite of the loss of his title in England,
to go and flare as a duchess abroad, where her
jewels procured for her the friendship of
sovereigns, and the Pope himself figured in her

For my own part, I venture to think that she may
have had, and probably had au fond a good and
noble disposition, accompanied, however, with a
high and proud spirit and strong passions. The
cruel deceit practised on her when young by her
aunt, coupled with her intense ambition, her
waywardness, and her pride, perverted the better
part of her nature, and drove her into courses
from which in the innocence of childhood and
youth she would have shrunk back with

There is a sense of awful responsibility in the


reflection that we all exercise an influence, more
or less, for good or evil on those around us ; and
for those who misuse it to warp the ductile
minds of the young in order to carry out their
own selfish purposes a fearful day of reckoning
will surely come, when they will plead in vain,
"Am I my brother's keeper?" Such at least is
the moral that I would have my readers draw
from the story of Elizabeth Chudleigh.

Mr Addison, in his "Anecdotes," tells an
amusing story of the Duchess, showing that she
was proud and haughty, and had far too high a
sense of her dignity. Being one day detained in
her carriage by a cart of coals that was unloading
in a very narrow street, she leaned out with
both her arms upon the door, and asked the
fellow, " How dare you, sirrah, to stop a woman
of quality in the street?" "Woman of quality !"
replied the man. "Yes, fellow," rejoined her
Grace ;" don't you see my arms upon my carriage ?"
" Yes. I do indeed," he answered, " and a pair of
d d coarse arms they are."

VOL. i. K



FEW names, even in Scottish history, stand
forward more nobly and well-known than
that of Drummond. According to Sir Bernard
Burke and the heralds, the house of Drummond
derives its descent from a Hungarian in the suite
of Edgar Atheling, the cotemporary, and in
some sense rival, of William the Conqueror; but
the importance of the family dates really from
the reign of Robert III. of Scotland, who took
for his consort Lady Annabella, a fair daughter
of Drummond of Stobhall. From that period
they became closely connected with the Court
and the Crown of Scotland, and attained the
honours of the peerage of that country nearly
four hundred years ago, in A.D. 1487, when the
head of the house, Sir John Drummond, of Car-
gill and Stobhall, a distinguished statesman and


diplomatist of his day, and Ambassador Exrtaor-
dinary to the Court of St. James, was created
Lord Drummond: his great-great-grandson, James
fourth Lord, being Ambassador for King James
VI. to Spain, was created in 1605, Earl of Perth,
with remainder to his " heirs male whomsoever."

The story of the origin of the name of Drum-
mond is thus related in the older Peerages :
" Maurice, son of George, son of Andrew, King
of Hungary, being in command of the vessel in
which Saint Margaret, afterwards Queen of Mal-
colm III., embarked for Hungary, happened to be
driven by a storm into the Frith of Forth. Here,
on landing, fortune befriended him, for he was
made Steward of Lennox, and received from the
hands of King Malcolm the lands of Drymen, or
Drummen, from which was derived the name of
Drummoud. And to this day, in memory of his
safe pilotage of Queen Margaret, his descendants
bear for their arms ' three bars wavy, gules,'
representing the waves of the sea."

His descendant in the fifth generation, Sir
John Drummond of Drummond, and Steward or
Thane of Lennox, was a brave defender of the
liberties of Scotland at the commencement of
King Edward's usurpation ; and his son, Sir
Malcolm, immediately after the Battle of Ban-
nockburn, obtained from Robert I. a grant of

K 2


broad lands in Perthshire, in reward of his ser-
vices in that battle, in which by his advice
caltrops were first used as a defence against the
English horse. In memory of this sage counsel
" his descendants," as Burke tells us, " bear
caltrops upon a compartment with their arms,
along with the motto, ' Gang warily.' "

His grandson, Sir John Drummond, marrying
a lady named De Pontifex, heiress of Stobhall
and other extensive estates in Perthshire, became
by her the father of a daughter, the Lady Anna-
bella, a lady of great beauty and merit, whom
we have already mentioned as the wife of King
Robert III. She was crowned with him, as Queen
Consort of Scotland, in September, 1390; and
it is worthy of note that her blood runs in the
veins not merely of Queen Victoria, but of many
other crowned heads of Europe in this our nine-
teenth century.

It is not my purpose here to give an exact
account of all the achievements of all the Lords
of Drummond and Earls of Perth. It is enough
to say that, in the words of one of the members
of that House, Lady Clementina Davies, in her
" Recollections of Society," they " first suffered
exile and losses in common with the Stuarts,
whom they regarded as their only true Sove-
reigns ; and then, after a hundred years of exile


at St. Germain, they shared the fall and mis-
fortunes of the House of Bourbon, to which they
had been scarcely less loyally attached."

This claim, advanced by Lady C. Davies, is
supported by the independent testimony of Burke,
who observes : " Their loyalty (i. e. that of the
Drummonds) to the throne shone at all times
conspicuous, but the crisis which called out their
whole energies and devotion was the great con-
test which preceded the final overthrow of the
ancient dynasty of Scotland, that of the Stuarts.
So long as the conflict was waged on the battle
field the Drummonds fought manfully in the
cause which they had espoused, and, at length,
when the last ruin of the hapless cause of Stuart
was consummated at Culloden, they left their
native land, to die banished and broken-hearted
in a foreign clime. They had fearlessly set their
all upon the cast of the die, and they cheerfully
submitted to its hazard."

And such really was the case; James, the
fourth Earl of Perth, on the defeat and abdica-
tion of King James II., accompanied his Sove-
reign into exile at St. Germain. He was Lord
Chancellor of Scotland, and a man of high stand-
ing in the world of politics as well as of law;
he was also connected with the noblest of the

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryEdward WalfordTales of our great families. 2d series (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 16)