By all accounts Rochester was very fond of his children. Whilst his wife spent her days either at their house in Adderbury or at her own estate in Somerset, his intermittent visits there begot them four children. The eldest, Anne was baptised on 30th August 1669. Rochester’s only son, Charles was baptised on 2nd January 1671. Elizabeth was baptised on 13th July 1674 and his youngest legitimate child Malet was baptised on 6th January 1675. These were undoubtedly happier moments in what can only be described as an unstable life.
In 1677, Mrs Elizabeth Barry also bore him an illegitimate daughter named for her mother. At some point, Rochester became so convinced of Mrs Barry’s infidelity and inability to raise the child that he took custody of her. He wrote to Mrs Barry soon afterwards;
“Madam, I am far from delighting in the grief I have given you, by taking the child: and you, who made it so absolutely necessary for me to do so, must take that excuse from me, for all the ill nature of it: on the other side, pray be assur’d, I love Betty so well, that you need not apprehend any neglect from those I employ; and I hope very shortly to return her to you a finer girl than ever.”
The child Elizabeth died at age fourteen and was buried in Acton, close to her mother. In his will Rochester bequeathed the infant child forty pounds a year to continue for the rest of her life.
As for Rochester’s other children; Charles died the year after his father at which time the title of Earl of Rochester became extinct. Anne married Henry Bayntun by whom she had a daughter and a son. Her second marriage was to Francis Greville MP and they had two sons.
Malet married John Vaughan, 1st Viscount Lisburne and together they had one son.
The legitimate child Elizabeth married Edward Monatgu, 3rd Earl of Sandwich and they had one daughter who died young and one son who went on to become the father of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich who invented the sandwich. Elizabeth was known for her learning and her wit, no doubt taking after her father.
Got my student visa, a sublet in the Mission district is all set… feeling excited and nervous! I have my audition at school tomorrow so they can place me in the right company for the course. I’ve decided on Elizabeth Malet from The Libertine. A 12 hour flight to LA then on to SF awaits!
Thence to my Lady Sandwich’s, where, to my shame, I had not been a great while before. Here, upon my telling her a story of my Lord Rochester’s running away on Friday night last with Mrs Mallet, the great beauty and fortune of the North, who had supped at Whitehall with Mrs Stewart, and was going home to her lodgings with her grandfather, my Lord Haly, by coach; and was at Charing Cross seized on by both horse and footmen, and forcibly taken from him, and put into a coach with six horses, and two women provided to receive her, and carried away. Upon immediate pursuit, my Lord of Rochester (for whom the King had spoke to the lady often, but with no success) was taken at Uxbridge; but the lady is not yet heard of, and the King mighty angry and the Lord sent to the Tower.
Pepys’ Diary, 28 May 1665.
Pepys liked to comment on just about everything, so here are his opinions on Rochester’s chosen method of wooing his future wife.
Here I saw my Lord Rochester and his lady, Mrs. Mallet, who hath after all this ado married him; and, as I hear some say in the pit, it is a great act of charity, for he hath no estate. But it was pleasant to see how every body rose up when my Lord John Butler, the Duke of Ormond’s son, come into the pit towards the end of the play, who was a servant —[lover]— to Mrs. Mallet, and now smiled upon her, and she on him.
Samuel Pepys’ diary for Monday 4th February 1667