The (very) Young Victoria… Miss Appleton and the Duchess of Kent

ITV’s ‘Victoria’ is back on television, and so this seems a good time to follow up on my previous blog post about Miss Elizabeth Appleton, where I mentioned that some sources suggested she had been considered as a governess for the future Queen Victoria.  The reason for this suggestion can be found in William Porden’s diary (archive reference no. D3311/4/6).  On 10 September 1820, Mr Porden writes:

Miss Appleton at dinner.  She has lately published a book on the Early Education of Children which she has dedicated to the Duchess of Kent and having received a visit from Gen [blank] on the part of the Duchess about a fortnight ago, has been in high expectation of being summoned to attend her Royal Highness and perhaps her flattering fancy may have given her an establishment in her Royal Highnesses household.  She has now received a Letter from Capt. Conway commanding her attendance on Wednesday.  What will be the result?

Miss Appleton clearly described what happened on her momentous visit to the Duchess of Kent in great detail, as it takes up nearly three and a half pages of Mr Porden’s diary.  She visited on 13 September and the young Princess Victoria, who would have been almost 16 months old at the time, is described (like many babies of that age!) as ‘a healthy fat thing’ .  After being passed through a chain of servants, she waited in ‘a magnificent Drawing Room’ until she  was taken to the Duchess’ dressing room for an audience…

Where besides the Duchess were the little Princess seated on a piece of Tapestry, the English Nurse attending her and other Attendants standing round rather in Scenic Order.  She was most graciously received and had perhaps half an hour’s rather familiar conversation.

Miss Appleton had brought a doll as a present for the princess, which was:

…given to the Child on the Carpet who appeared delighted with it but began to pull its head-dress and cloathing as made Miss A apprehensive that its drapery which she had taken so much pains with would be destroyed before her face.

Anyone who knows small children of this age would hardly be surprised at this!  Miss Appleton mentions that she was dressed in white, whereas the Duchess and everyone else was in black.  The Duke of Kent had died in January of that year, and Miss Appleton’s outfit seems to have been a bit of a faux pas, as ‘The Princess was struck with the contrast, and showed surprise, more than pleasure.’

Painted a few years later, this portrait of the duchess (still in black) and her daughter, by Henry Bone, gives an indication of how the Duchess would have looked.

Unfortunately for Miss Appleton, the book dedication and her visit didn’t result in a job offer.  Given the fact that she subsequently opened a highly profitable school, she perhaps didn’t mind too much in the end.

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Miss Elizabeth Appleton – an independent Regency woman

Those of you who followed William Porden’s travels in France in 1816 will remember Miss Elizabeth Appleton, who was so very seasick on the channel crossing. This intrepid young woman, befriended by the Pordens, was journeying to the Continent alone, and appeared to be a seasoned traveller. The friendship continued after their return to Britain, and Mr Porden continues to mention Miss Appleton in his diaries, for example on 29 August 1820:

At Mr Flaxman’s in the Evening.  [Present were] Mr Owen Pugh, Miss Appleton, Mr J Denman, Mr and Miss Flaxman, Maria Denman and selves.

I suspect this Mr Flaxman is John Flaxman RA and Owen Pugh, who Mr Porden describes as a Welsh Antiquary, would be Dr William Owen Pughe.

So who was Miss Appleton?   As to what she looked like, we have Mr Porden’s description of her in an entry of 13 Sept 1820 as ‘a tall, genteel figure, nearly 6 feet high’.  She is clearly well educated and wealthy enough to travel abroad for pleasure.  She is of independent means and also socialises with eminent people of the day.  Well, with the wonders of the internet it’s proved possible to identify exactly who she was – here’s how and what I found.

I started with a search for her name in the British Newspaper Archive on www.findmypast.co.uk, which brought up a few Elizabeth Appletons.  Bearing in mind what I already knew about her education and social status, this notice in the Morning Post on 28 January 1822 seemed likely to be the right Miss Appleton:

I also found this marriage notice on 4 February 1826:


This led me to the marriage in Southampton on 21 July 1825 of John Lachlan McLachlan and Elizabeth Appleton.  Note the fact that the newspaper got John McLachlan’s name slightly wrong, a good reminder that the facts in newspaper articles should always be checked.   In fact, her married surname continued to make it difficult to find her online. I eventually found she had her own Wikipedia entry under ‘Elizabeth Lachlan’ which then led me to an entry about her in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, under Elizabeth Appleton (married name Lachlan).  I should have just checked there in the first place!

From all this information I learned that when William and Eleanor Porden first met Elizabeth Appleton she was 25 or 26 years old and had apparently spent three years on the continent a few years before, following an argument with her mother.  She had been a governess to aristocratic families and was making her name as an educationist, having just published her first book Private Education; or a practical plan for the studies of young ladies. The school that she subsequently opened in Upper Portland Place was so successful that by 1825 she was reputedly earning £4000 per year, an immense sum, equivalent to roughly £300,000 in today’s money. She was even reputed to have been asked to be governess to Princess Victoria (more on this in a future blog post).

It’s easy to see why Miss Appleton and the Pordens would have become friends. William Porden valued female education and his daughter Eleanor, who had recently published her first work of poetry, is considered a proto-feminist.  Miss Appleton’s story as a successful, independent, professional woman came to a sad end, however.  Her money became entangled with her uncle’s and when he went bankrupt, her money was lost at the same time.  Eventually, her husband fled to France to escape his debts and she died in London of cholera in 1849.

Despite the sad ending, Elizabeth Appleton proves that in the Regency era, a single genteel women could have a well-paid job and move in intellectual circles.  Although Elizabeth Appleton is not from Derbyshire, she is the kind of woman being celebrated in projects happening around the country for the 100th anniversary of women gaining the vote in 1918.  Derby-based Vox Feminarum’s Heritage Lottery Funded ‘Deeds not Words: towards Liberation’ project is researching 100+ years of women’s sociology-political activism in Derbyshire.  Take a look at their website at http://www.deedsnotwordstowardsliberation.com for more about the often untold stories of Derbyshire women.

A Question of Seduction

This is not my title, but the title given by Daniel Parker Coke to one of the cases he provided legal advice for over 200 years ago. Of the 40 or so cases he records in this particular notebook (one of five in our collection), there are several being similar to each other (for example, several relating to the settlement of a pauper and the right to an apprentice). There are also several that give us an insight into the position of women and the way they are viewed by the men in and out of their lives. This is one such case in which the former lover (Richard) of a young woman (Hannah) who has apparently had children by at least one other man. The parish and Quarter Sessions feature a number of cases of child maintenance and bastardy, this one however, is from a slightly different angle, with the father of Hannah claiming damages against Richard as his daughter has been unable to fulfill all her servants duties.

Here is the transcript from his notebook, which begins with the letter he received (abbreviations expanded):

Please to answer this Law Question. I was at Lenton wake this week at a friends of mine Mr John Hopkin a reputable farmer. He has a nephew Richard Potter a Farmer that I know & lives at Trowell in the County of Nottingham & he being a young man made love to a young woman of the same village Hannah Hewitt a Farmer’s Daughter & after some time they differed & parted & after she had a child by one Robert Whitehead a blacksmith of the same village of Trowell & since then Richard Potter has had connections with her but he solemnly says not of above a year past & now she brought to bed of another child & her father Hewitt has employed Mr Bolton the Attorney to bring an Action against Richard Potter for Trespass & the loss of his Daughter’s service who acted in the capacity of Servant & has served Potter with a Declaration he has employed Mr Evans and Middlemen & expects a Trial at the next Assize for the County of Nottingham. Now Honoured Sir I should be glad to have your private opinion on the Case. Mr Hopkin is a freeholder of Nottingham & strongly attached to your Interest & Richard Potter & his two Brothers are in the Derby Yeomanry & has been exercising this morning Thursday on Breadsall Moor or Common. Note Richard Potter is married about a Month past. Note Hannah Hewitt has not sworn the Child if she does & swears it to Potter he knows he must maintain the Child though he says it’s none of his. Your most Humble and Obedient Servant, Wright Hawley

Parker Coke’s reply dated the following day reads:

This is an unpleasant business to Mr Potter as he admits he has had a connection with Hannah Hewitt which will undoubtedly be proved by her as she may be a witness in the Action which is brought by her father. The Action is brought for Seduction & if is founded upon the loss of service. And if it should turn out to be a strong Case the Damage may be considerable. At all events the Verdict must necessarily be against Potter with some Damages which will be followed by the Costs of the Cause so that upon the whole the Expence to Mr Potter must be considerable. What I would recommend to him is to compromise the matter by offering a sum of money – if the Cause should come into Court it will probably be referred by the Judge as these Causes are seldom tried I would therefore advise Mr Potter if they cannot agree upon the sum of money to be given to offer to leave it to one two or three friends as Arbitrators & if Hannah Hewitt’s character should be proved to be (as it is here stated) that of a common woman the Damages will probably be small

Too often I think we think of such complicated relationships as being a modern occurrence, but this account shows this is not the case.

D1881/UL – Coke of Brookhill Family Papers

Have bike, will travel – a splendid celebration of cycling

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Thursday 5th May saw the start of our latest ‘What’s in the Wall?’ exhibitions.  Running (or should I say pedalling?) until the 30th July, ‘Have bike, will travel’ is a comprehensive collection of items from our Local Studies and Archives, ranging from the late 19th century to the present day. Many of the photographs are courtesy of Picture the Past

Bicycle related photos, maps, magazines, drawings and diaries are all there, along with a large dose of nostalgia, from the early days of the penny farthing, the bicycle as an essential form of transport, to the cycling proficiency test and 80s BMXing!

This exhibition will coincide with the Aviva Women’s Tour which has a whole stage in Derbyshire on Friday 17th June (it will go up Bank Road in Matlock, definitely worth watching!) It will also coincide with the Eroica Britannia – a 3 day festival held in Bakewell from Friday 17th June – Sunday 19th June, which ends on the Sunday with over 4,000 riders taking part in a vintage bike ride.

Come and take a journey with us through the history of Derbyshire cycling.  The display is in our Reception area and we are based on New Street, Matlock – parallel with Bank Road (if you don’t know the road, come and take a look at the steep gradient the women will have to climb on the Derbyshire stage of the Women’s Tour!)

Directions are here and we are open Monday to Friday 9.30am – 5.00pm and Saturdays 9.30am – 1pm.  We have cycle parking as well as car parking.  Our other forthcoming events can be found here

Nothing but Nuns!

Index of Nuns

Following hot on the heels of the Record Office appearance at Derbyshire County Council’s International Women’s Day is a female-focused addition to the Local Studies Collection. It’s a searchable Index of Nuns from the Catholic Family History Society on CD.

It lists records of approximately 14,000 nuns who professed later than 1795, with information about their parents, birth, religious name, profession and death. It should provide a fascinating and useful reference to anyone who might be researching their family history and knows there might have been a nun in the family!

Women leadminers

We like to bring you news of research discoveries as and when they happen; this discovery was made in our search room about two hours ago, by Matthew Pawelski. OK, actually, it’s not a discovery per se, having been published in various forms before (e.g. Lynn Willies’ article in the Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society). But let us not get bogged down in semantics. Instead, have a look at this extract from a 1737 reckoning book for the Miners Engine lead mine at Eyam Edge. The section shown is principally dedicated to recording payments made to individual “coppers”. Nothing to do with the police, and it’s usually spelled “copers”; it refers to the men who were extracting lead ore below ground. Above their names, you will spot a reference to “17 women’s wages”, coming to £6 16s. Assuming this was shared equally, that comes to 8s each, or 40p in new money).
D7676 BagC 382 account

Nearer the back of the same book, we can actually see the names of some of these women Continue reading

On This Day: ‘Death of a Distinguished Derbyshire Woman’

From the Derby Mercury, 4th October 1893:

Death of a Distinguished Derbyshire Woman

The death is announced from New York of Mrs. Mary Monroe, on the 15th September, in her 98th year.  Born in Derbyshire, England, February 1, 1795, she early in life developed a passion for travel, and was counted at the time of her death the most travelled woman in America.  In 1830 she passed Easter week in the city of Rome as a guest of the Pope.  She was a friend of Lafayette, and was twice a guest of Sir Walter Scott, and she counted among her friends the Duchess of Kent.  When 70 years of age she travelled for 20 weeks alone, visiting every part of Great Britain and Ireland in order to investigate the condition of the working classes.  Her husband was an officer of the Customs service of the United States.

The County Local Studies Library holds the Derby Mercury – just ring to book a microfilm reader.  If you have a Derbyshire library card you can also view 19th century issues of the newspaper online at the libraries area of the council website.