second-earl-of-chatham

*ahem*

Apologies to those of you who are following me elsewhere, as you will already know this, but:

They say, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. But sometimes life gets it right, and gives you a book contract instead. Then you write a book.

I am more thrilled than I can express to announce that I have been commissioned by Pen & Sword Books to write the first ever biography of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham.

It does mean the novel is put aside for a short bit, but on the other hand it also means my boy will finally get to tell his side of the story. (I should probably stop calling him ‘my boy" though.)

Happy 258th birthday John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham

Happy birthday John!

(YES, the 10th, not the 9th. Have you not been paying attention?)

Anyway, I’ve written a blog post about his childhood for the occasion. You can read it at my author’s blog here:

http://tinyurl.com/p3qb42j

The Second Earl of Chatham's marriage settlement, Bromley Archives 1080/3/1/1/26

I’ve missed the 230th anniversary of John, Second Earl of Chatham’s wedding to Mary Elizabeth Townshend by five days, but never mind. A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Bromley Archives and check out the marriage settlement drawn up for them and signed by all parties on 5 July 1783 (the marriage took place five days later).

In a nutshell, the settlement designates various sums of money which, together, make a larger sum intended to purchase of stocks on behalf of any younger children born of the marriage. This was two sums of £1000 (an inheritance left to Mary by a relative, and a similar sum of money left to her sister Georgiana, who signed it over), to form a dowry of £2000; plus a little over £3000 expressly set aside to plump up the sum. Lucky John: that was quite a dowry, although John wasn’t allowed to touch the £2000 as it was intended to be Mary’s “pin money” and therefore belonged to her (in the words of the legal text, “for her own separate and peculiar use in the nature of pin money and exclusively of the said John Earl of Chatham who is not to interfere or intermeddle therewith nor is the same or any part thereof to be exposed subject or liable to his debts controul or interference”: get told John!).

The eldest child of the marriage, obviously, stood to inherit the £4000 pension settled by Parliament on John and his mother for four lives in memory of his father William Pitt (the Elder), First Earl of Chatham. John was second in line to receive the pension after his mother, and his eldest son (had he had one … which he didn’t) would have been third. The £4000 pension was also meant to provide for Mary’s jointure of £1000, to be paid out annually in quarterly instalments should John predecease her.

The contract (all ten whopping vellum pages of it) was signed by the bridegroom, the bride, the prospective father-in-law, and four trustees (two on the bridegroom’s side and two on the bride’s), who agreed to make sure the terms were adhered to, and basically to stop John running off with the money intended to provide for his wife and children in case of his early death. The trustees in question were John’s brother William Pitt the Younger, who had just finished a stint as Chancellor of the Exchequer and was yet to become Prime Minister; John’s first cousin Thomas Pitt, later Lord Camelford; Mary’s uncle Charles Townshend; and Mary’s cousin Thomas Brodrick.

(Above: signature and seal of Pitt the Younger as trustee of his brother’s marriage settlement)

(Above: John, Lord Chatham (bridegroom) and Thomas Townshend, Lord Sydney (the father of the bride) sign and seal the contract)

(Above: Mary Elizabeth Townshend (the bride) signs and seals the contract)

We know Mary’s father, Lord Sydney, was a wealthy man (his biographer, Andrew Tink, in Lord Sydney: the life and times of Tommy Townshend (Melbourne, 2011, p. 150). The settlement certainly bears that out. John was … less wealthy, and I imagine the £5000 sum made a sucking sound as it entered his bank account and then, instantly, left it again. :-/

I did wonder if drawing up a marriage settlement contract was, in fact, a reflection of John’s impoverished status– Lord Sydney pretty much saying “OK, you can marry my daughter, but only if you pledge to be sensible with the money I’m giving her!” I was therefore happy to find that marriage settlements were de rigeur in aristocratic families with money and property to pass on.

According to H.J. Habbakuk in “Marriage settlements in the 18th century” (Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 4th series, 32 (1950), 15), the settlement was intended to limit “the interest in the estate of the father of the husband and, after him, of the husband himself, to that of a life-tenant, and entailing the estate on the eldest son to be born of the marriage”. This is especially interesting because John’s estate is not mentioned at all in the settlement: the only thing that is mentioned is that the title is to descend down the male line, and that the £4000 pension will go with it. In 1783 John had two estates– Hayes Place, in Kent, and Burton Pynsent, in Somerset, which according to the provisions of his father’s will he held jointly with his mother. Neither estate is mentioned in the contract. Hayes and Burton came with very little land, comparatively speaking– although Burton at least had a farm, which brought in some income– but they were both mortgaged (and in the case of Hayes at least, remortgaged) to the hilt, which may be why they were not mentioned. John sold Hayes two years later in any case: perhaps he had already intended to do so in 1783, which is why it is not included in the settlement. This may also be why Sydney stipulated the enormous sum of £1000 to be set aside for Mary’s jointure.

One last interesting fact: Mary was under the age of twenty-one when she married John (her birthday was in September). The contract therefore notes that “the said Mary Elizabeth Townshend is now an Infant under the Age of Twenty one Years (that is to say) of the Age of Twenty years and upwards of the second part”. I’m not sure what I would have thought if I were referred to as an “infant”! (Not to mention the fact it makes John look like an absolute cradle-snatcher!) Sydney, by signing the contract, gave his permission for his daughter to marry even though by law she was under-age.

(Above: the parties of the marriage are named)

All in all, I passed a very pleasant morning in Bromley Archives… even though I very nearly got eaten by the document I was reading. (It took up two desks, and I am not exaggerating.)

Oh, John, John, John... *shakes head*

So. I have one post (… and maybe a bit of another post) attempting to rehabilitate the reputation of John, Lord Chatham. The man known to history (if he’s at all remembered) as the “late” Lord Chatham, so called during his lifetime, obviously. I still stand by my assertion that he wasn’t as bad as hindsight claims (most quoted accounts of his laziness come from post-Walcheren accounts, and so almost certainly benefit from 20/20 hindsight).

And then I found this. *sinks head in hands*

(Public Advertiser, 5 October 1791)

I’ve only just discovered the existence of John’s residence at Cheveley– and that’s a big enough mystery as it is, but I won’t go into that here– and, from my searches on the subject, it seems John went off there to hunt for about a month each year over January and February, and for another month over the period of October/November. This certainly fits in with the hunting seasons. But it looks, from my searches, as though he did it EVERY year, REGARDLESS of what was going on.

But to continue: let’s give John the benefit of a doubt. OK, he was going on holiday. Pitt was obviously going on holiday too. I presume John said “Do you mind if I go now?” and William said “Sure, you go– I’ll chair that last Admiralty meeting for you, don’t worry”. Certainly I cannot imagine Pitt letting his brother go without permission, and if he chaired the Admiralty Board I presume John asked him to do so. Still, asking the busy PM to take on extra work … :-/

If only it was a one off…

(Star, 16 October 1792)

Note how the newspaper makes a point of saying John was not there.

And it’s not even a two-off:

(London Packet or New Lloyd’s Evening Post, 6 September 1793)

Let’s not mention all the times I’ve seen John having to be summoned back to town for an emergency cabinet … although, to be fair, John could not necessarily have foreseen all those occasions, and often other cabinet ministers also had to be recalled (and John always turned up within 24 hours so could apparently hot-foot it if required).

I’m not sure what to make of all this. Perhaps my hindsight is also 20/20, given John’s reputation. Still, it seems to me that the diligence of John’s early years at the Admiralty– he seems not to have missed Admiralty Board meetings very often between 1788 and 1791, or at least that’s my impression– did not last more than a few years. I’m sure he still pulled his weight when required, but it looks like the lure of the countryside, and of sport, was occasionally too much for John.

My verdict? The above extracts suggest that John’s reputation for laziness was not undeserved (something I am certainly not trying to contradict). Whether it suggests he was also irresponsible is a different matter. I get the feeling that’s what the papers are trying to establish (particularly the second extract above). I’d say John was definitely doing himself no favours by putting his love of shooting ahead of his duty as a member of the cabinet.

Oh dear, John. *tuts*

*Falls off chair*

Was just scouring the AMAZING Wellington Database at the University of Southampton (http://www.archives.soton.ac.uk/wellington/) to see if I could find any reference to John’s correspondence with the Duke, and found this in regard to the Catholic Emancipation issue in 1829.

It’s from a letter to Lord Camden, 29 March 1829:

“I received your note last night. It is very difficult for me to find a moment to go to LordChatham again who is visible only at the time that others must see me upon business.” (WP1/1007/46)

In other words, John and the Duke of Wellington were only both awake for a short period of the day ;-) (In John’s defence it looks like his health was already poor.)

Incidentally it seems John opposed Catholic Emancipation, which doesn’t surprise me as he seems to have been rather against it in 1800-1801 when Pitt the Younger thought of proposing it. He sent a letter to Camden, 1 April 1829, asking Camden to make use of his proxy vote in the House of Lords in favour of the Bill, but explained “I cannot say that I am quite satisfied of the urgency there was of pressing forward the measure of concession, but I am clear that there is now but one course to be pursued and from my confidence in the Duke of Wellington and my anxious wish to support his government, I shall certainly vote for the bill.” (WP1/1008/8)

This does slightly sadden me as one of the things that initially attracted me to Pitt was his willingness to keep an open mind on the Catholic question (… oh, goodness what a contentious point: watch the reams of emails from outraged historians come rolling in!), but I’ve always known Chatham was the more conservative of the two brothers and after all I can’t judge him by modern standards. (And yet.)

By the way if you haven’t found this database … check it out. It absolutely rocks.

John's best friend, the ....... Prince of Wales?!?!?

Really?

(The Prince of Wales to the Earl of Chatham, 2 September 1799, PRO 30/70/4 f 219)

Yes, really. Really really. Yes, THAT Prince of Wales. That very one.

For those who can’t make it out, the letter (written on the occasion of John’s departure for Holland during the Helder expedition of 1799) reads:

“Dear Lord Chatham,

I have this moment heard that your Brigade is under orders of March Tomorrow Morning; in all probability you will wish as well as Lady Chatham to be rid of me in that event. I hope in God that Lady Chatham meets this severe trial with proper fortitude, & that her good Sense & nerves will support her through it. My good wishes attend you always my Dear Lord, & I am ever with great truth,

Your very sincere Friend

George P.”

Apparently it wasn’t a passing fondness either. As King George IV in 1825, George was still writing letters to Lord Chatham calling him “my Dear Friend”, expressing himself “impatient to have the pleasure of seeing you” and signing off “your very sincere friend, GR” (George IV to Chatham, 4 July 1825, PRO 30/70/6 f. 420)

Forgive me if I am gobsmacked by this, but I never (never, never, NEVER) pictured Chatham and Prinny as best buds. :-/

John, you never stop amazing me!

Insight into John's later years (Part 1)

John, Earl of Chatham is fast becoming my Best Research Buddy (BRB for short– and who’m I kidding? Let’s just call him John from here on in for concision’s sake. John, blog readers; blog readers, John. Excellent, now we can move on :-D).

The problem is John is one of the Invisible Men in history, unless, as you may have noticed, he is being laughed at/scorned/denigrated/otherwise-middle-finger-saluted by historians. Students of Pitt the Younger may spot him hanging around in a rather embarrassed fashion on the fringes, making the occasional appearance in correspondence, at cabinet meetings, or in Pitt’s private life. Military historians will remember his record at Walcheren in 1809 (STILL not ready to write that post, so just read this for now and then forget you ever heard of it). But otherwise nobody knows who he is, really, and he almost completely drops off the radar in 1810. This isn’t exactly surprising (I suspect John kept his head down as much as possible after Walcheren) but, given he survived until 1835, that’s 25 years unaccounted for– more than the 22 he spent in public office.

I’ve been trying to work out what happened to John after 1810. Not for my novel, obviously– a book about the relationship between John and his brother William naturally comes to a close somewhere around, ooh, say, 23 January 1806– but just for curiosity’s sake. My research is still very much a work in progress, and I suspect not much will come of it until I’ve finished my novel, but I’ve found a few interesting things so far.

The years 1810-20 are still something of a haze to me, so let’s start in 1820. In January of that year John was appointed Governor of Gibraltar. He didn’t go out for a good long while, though. I can’t be sure why, but it probably has something to do with his wife. Mary, Countess of Chatham was approaching the end of her life at this stage; according to her obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine (1821, p. 565) she “had been indisposed nearly two years” prior to her death, so presumably she was suffering from cancer or some other gradually debilitating disease. At the end of April 1821 the newspapers rumoured that John was about to undertake his official duties at last (Times, 30 April 1821), but by the beginning of May John was still in London and still appearing at public functions (for example the King’s birthday dinner on the third). Mary died on 20 May, and although there were rumours that John was about to go out to Gibraltar he did not actually arrive until November 1821.

What he did there I couldn’t tell you now, although I suspect that, too, will be a research object in the future. He stayed in Gibraltar until July 1825. At the beginning of that month he landed back in England “on leave of absence” (Times, 1 July 1825). By the fourth he was in London and the King wrote to him inviting him to attend a “dress ball” at St James’s Palace that evening (PRO 30/70/6 f 420).

Even if the nearly sixty-nine year old John had managed to recover from his journey in such a short time, I doubt whether he was in any condition to attend that ball. I have a suspicion, in fact, that ill health influenced his decision to leave Gibraltar in the first place. John was treated at home by an apothecary on four occasions from 11 to 14 July for fever (PRO 30/8/370 f. 63). His health doesn’t seem to have recovered for a while, either. A good friend and I recently visited Berry Brothers & Rudd, the wine merchants in St James’s, London, where rich and famous customers came throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to be weighed on the enormous coffee scales there. We discovered that John was weighed there on 29 September 1821, just before setting out for Gibraltar. His weight then was 11st 13.5lb, comfortably within a healthy BMI range for a 65-year-old tallish man. On 3 August 1825 it was 9st 10.5 lb, fully clothed and with boots. He was weighed a further four times over the next six months so clearly seems to have been keeping an eye on his weight. By November he seems to have fully recovered– his weight plateaued at about 10st 13lb, and he was well enough to go shooting with friends (Times, 7 November 1825). At the end of 1829 the Times reported categorically that his ill health would prevent him going out again and, although he was occasionally sighted thereafter transacting official business at the Colonial Office, he did not return to Gibraltar (Times, 18 June 1828, 15 January and 20 August 1829).

After that he really does almost completely disappear from the radar. In August 1830 it seems he came so close to death he started to panic about what would happen to his title and estate (more on this later). He was not yet at the end of his life, but clearly had a shock: he took out at least two life insurance policies (……one of which he may or may not have ever actually paid for…) and set about drawing up his will, naming his great nephews William Stanhope Taylor (grandson of his sister Hester) and John Henry Pringle (grandson of his sister Harriot) as joint beneficiaries and executors. In classic John style he got at least one of the names wrong in the official paperwork, which led to a comparatively lengthy period of legal discussion after his death as his heirs patiently tried to explain to the authorities that “Thomas William Taylor” did not in fact exist (the will is available to download from the National Archives, PROB 11/1852).

Although it looks like his health never did fully recover, he still managed to find time for court duties. The latest I have seen him appear in public was at a function for military gentlemen held in Brighton on 13 January 1835. He died on 24 September 1835 at his house in Charles Street, and was buried towards the end of October. I have no idea how much in debt he was but according to the Times of 10 November “all claims on the estate were paid immediately subsequent to the funeral”. How Messrs Taylor and Pringle managed this minor miracle I could not tell you, but in the National Archives there is a catalogue of an auction selling the late Earl of Chatham’s belongings at Christie’s, 16 May 1836 (PRO 30/8/370 f 147). Everything appears to have been sold, from the contents of Chatham’s cellar to the servants’ bedlinen. The leasehold of the house itself– mortgaged from the Dowager Countess of Suffield– was sold for £3000 (PRO 30/7/370 f 137).

John was, of course, long beyond caring by then. He got an earl’s funeral in the family vault at Westminster Abbey, where he joined his father, mother, brother William, sister Harriot and wife. His father and brother got public funerals, but John’s must have also been quite impressive. He was buried in a “strong elm” coffin lined in white satin, enclosed in soldered lead and an outer coffin, also made of elm, studded with brass nails and “richly gilt and burnished” earl’s coronets and garter stars. The funeral train included all the accoutrements of a medieval earl’s funeral, three mourning coaches, “a caparisoned horse” and a hearse drawn by six horses (PRO 30/8/370 f 152). But with that final burst of glory John subsided into obscurity.

Apologies for the gush fest, but I have a very definite feeling that I am the first person since, ooh, 1835, to have looked at half these documents. I feel kind of privileged. ;-)

Oh dear John, part the zillionth

“There is to be a meeting at my house tomorrow Evening at 9 OClock precisely, and I hope your Lordship will be able to attend it”

(Spencer Perceval to John, Earl of Chatham, undated [January 1810], PRO 30/8/368 f 137)

From the emphasis on “precisely” I draw further confirmation that John’s reputation as the “Late” Lord Chatham was not entirely undeserved. ;-)

"Ever unalterably yours"

I’ve long known that one of the second Earl of Chatham’s closest friends was Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland (1754-1787). John seems to have made a habit of befriending Lords Lieutenant of Ireland: along with Rutland, who was in Ireland 1784-7, John was also close to Lord Westmorland (1789-94) and Lord Camden (1795-8). Rutland, however, seems to have been an especially close friend. Rutland was close to both Pitt brothers, but I definitely get the impression that John was the one Rutland felt closest to.

(The Duke of Rutland, from here)

Politically and personally, Rutland was strongly drawn to the Pitt family. His father, Lord Granby, had aligned himself with the Earl of Chatham and, although Rutland entered Parliament under the auspices of the Marquis of Rockingham, Rutland’s political position seems to have placed him quite firmly in the Chathamite camp. I am not sure how he initially came into contact with the Pitt brothers– perhaps he met William at Cambridge, but then again he and John might have met first in the salons and clubs of London.

However they met, by 1778 John and Rutland had hit it off big time. John spent a lot of time visiting Belvoir and Cheveley, Rutland’s country estates, and when he was sent abroad in 1778 Rutland (then still Marquis of Granby) sent him the following letter, dated 8 December (PRO 30/8/368 f 231):

“My dear Friend, I wrote you a Letter from Liverpool dated Oct 6th, but not choosing that it should be quite so publick as if it was stuck up at Charing Cross or Published in ye Morning Post which it probably would have been had it passed thro’ ye Channel of ye Post Office, I sent it to Mr Thoroton [?] desiring that he would find out some safe Conveyance [to Gibraltar, where John then was]: but none offering, I rather choose to run any risk than be deemed deficient in any one Point of Friendship or attention to a man for whom I profess & most sincerely do feel so much”.

John returned to England in the late spring of 1779, at which point Rutland had succeeded to the Dukedom. The two men decided to take their seats for the first time in the House of Lords on the same occasion, and I have reason to believe John spent nearly all his time in England staying either with the Duke in London or at Belvoir Castle. In the autumn of that year Rutland raised a new regiment of foot (the 86th) and gave John a captaincy in it. Unfortunately the minute the regiment was raised it was sent abroad to the West Indies. In January of 1780, shortly after John had left with his regiment, Rutland wrote the following (PRO 30/8/368, f 233):

“My dearest Friend, I am most miserable in the thoughts of not seeing you once again previously to your departure … Lord Amherst has consented to call the Regiment after my name, & has written to me a Polite Letter on the Occasion; as if all the disappointments which I have experienced in raising the Battallion [sic] were to be Entirely Cancelled & obliterated by the single act of Empty Civility.

But now my dear Lord, give me Leave to thank you in the Sincerest Manner for the Great Honor you have done me in trusting me with your Proxy [vote in the House of Lords]. Such an unequivocal testimony such a Publick distinguished Demonstration of Confidence from one whose Good Opinion & Friendship is the Pride & Pleasure of my Life is a Circumstance too affecting, for me to be able to Express the Satisfaction I feel upon it in terms adequate to my Sensations.

I will trouble you no longer but to offer to you every wish that Sincere Friendship can possibly suggest. … Believe me my Ever dear Friend to be unalterably yours, Rutland.”

Over the next few years the friendship seems to have taken root and flourished. From perusing the HMC Manuscripts of the Duke of Rutland, it looks like John was a (not always very effective) point of contact for guidance for the Duke of Rutland’s MPs in the House of Commons while Rutland was away in Ireland. The Rutland MSS are full of references to John and the occasional letter from him (John, it seems, was not always the best of correspondents). That didn’t stop Rutland from writing the following, quite astoundingly familiar letter of February 1785 (PRO 30/70/3 f 145):

“I am of Lord Lansdown’s mind in regard to Polliticks [sic], preferring Planting & retirement, I confess I begin to grow ennui’d; My Habits lead me to Indolence & to live [?] & [?] & I would rather be at Belvoir breaking my neck all morning, & Bottles & Glasses all ye Evening than Disposing of Bishopricks Peerages &c, However Pleasant Power & Patronage most certainly is. But yet the Little Ambition I have in my Composition & the great attachment which I bear to yourself & your family bind me to my present Situation[.] As long as I can render Service to our Country & Strengthen your Brother’s able and Honorable Government I shall never desert you. & by the Strict Union which subsists between us we shall ever mutually assist each other. God Bless you my dear Friend & love you as much as I do. I am ever unalterably yours, Rutland”.

John had planned to visit Rutland in Ireland in the summers of 1784 and 1785, but on both occasions had to put off his plans due to the bad health of his wife. He eventually managed, alone, in the summer of 1786, and spent three weeks in Dublin. It was not a wholly successful visit– political relations between Dublin and Westminster had been fraught since the Irish Commercial Propositions had failed in 1785, and the newspapers were agog with the possibilities offered by the Minister’s brother making a personal visit to the Lord Lieutenant– but it was the last time John and Rutland were to meet. Rutland died on 24 October 1787 of a disease of the liver, probably due to the “Bottles & Glasses all ye Evening” he had confessed to prefer to the ins and outs of political life. In a final testimony to friendship Rutland made provision in his will for John and William to become joint guardians to his children.

Thus passed a great friendship. John maintained ties to the Rutland family long after the Duke died; he remained good friends with the Dowager Duchess, rented the Duke’s hunting lodge of Cheveley (more on this later) for ten years from 1787 to 1797, and continued to visit the Rutland children at Belvoir on a reasonably regular basis. As late as 1825 (7 November, the Times) he was to be found hunting with the Duke of Rutland on his estates.

I must say that until yesterday I was not fully aware of the extent to which John and Rutland were good friends. “Ever unalterably yours” indeed: I can truly say I have never seen anyone else signing off to John in such a manner.

theironduchess said: I like the portrait of John (by Martin Arthur Shee) having a bad-hair day the best”

What, this one?


(From here)

Hmmm, I’m not keen. I know this was my avatar for ages, but the reasons I don’t like it are the following:

1) He’s having a terribly bad hair day, as you mention (John, John, John … I know you like to keep abreast of fashion, but why does your hair have to look like you’ve just inserted yourself into an electrical circuit?)

2) He looks like he’s thinking “………. Why the heck am I here? I’m not sure I like the artist and he seems to be painting me with a very funny expression on my face” (and there’s a nice recursive reference there for you)

3) The eyes are WRONG wrong wrong WRONG (where’s the Grenville sleepy-eyed look that we all know and love?! Unless he’d had his coffee that day!)

4) The mouth … ditto (John had his father’s mouth, not this tiny cupid’s bow affair)

I actually don’t think it looks much like him at all … although I guess, given I have never actually met him in person (and I’m never going to unless I get my hands on that time machine), this could be the most accurate of all the portrayals. I have a feeling it was painted in 1786 when John was in Ireland for a few weeks, so maybe it was done quite hurriedly on a spur-of-the-moment decision after a night on the lash with the Duke of Rutland (would explain the expression anyway). But I just don’t like it. Sorry.

Mostly it’s the hair.

John's later years, Part 2

So yes, despite my radio silence over the past few days I still have quite a lot of stuff to share that came from my foray into the National Archives last week. Time, then, for my Part 2 of the insight I have gleaned into the later years of the second Earl of Chatham, and it doesn’t make for happy reading.

A cursory Google search will inform you that the Pitt family tree pretty much comes to a . with John’s death in 1835. Pitt the Elder’s late marriage to Lady Hester Grenville was a successful and surprisingly fruitful one, given that both parties were somewhat past their best (Pitt was 46, Hester nearly 34): they had five children in quick succession, Hester in 1755, John in 1756, Harriot in 1758, William in 1759 and James Charles in 1761. Unfortunately five children did not guarantee continuance of the family name. Hester and Harriot both had children (… and died having children), but none of the boys managed to pass on their genes. James died aged 19, William of course died a bachelor, and John’s marriage to Mary Townshend produced no live issue.

The Chatham title was granted in 1766 by letters patent (*I think*– I actually need to check this as I am not 100% sure: mention has been made in papers of “Acts of Parliament” but I think that refers to the pension granted to the title for four lives on Pitt the Elder’s death). It was strictly limited to “issue male of the body of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham”, which meant that Hester and Harriot’s fruitfulness was, from a dynastic point of view, useless. Since John outlived all his siblings he was, automatically, the last Earl of Chatham. In the course of my research I often winced at the entries in the volumes of Burke’s and Debrett’s Peerages when I turned to the section entitled “John, Earl of Chatham” and read the line “Heir Apparent - None”. Until now I had only been able to wonder at what John’s feelings might have been had he, too, read his own entry (which he must have done, on occasion). Now I have an inkling, and bloody hell, poor John.

I mentioned in my previous entry that John came close to death in 1830, aged 73. He seems to have been very ill for a long time, and his thoughts naturally turned to posterity. He had heirs in the grandchildren of his sisters, but he seems to have panicked at the prospect of the title becoming extinct. In the Hoare MSS (a kind of add-on to the Chatham Papers) I found a draft of the following letter (in the Earl of Clarendon’s handwriting) to the Duke of Wellington, then Prime Minister (PRO 30/70/4 f. 292):

“Charles St., August [blank] 1830

My dear Duke,

I would have asked the favor of an interview, if I had not thought that I shd give your Grace less trouble in addressing you by letter. I can assure you that it is not without extreme reluctance that I trespass at all upon your valuable time; But I am impelled by motives, for which I trust that no one can be more disposed than yourself to make allowance.

My own infirmities lead me to contemplate the no very distant extinction of my name & family; I may perhaps be allowed to say, considering my Fathers & my Brothers brilliant & important services (without any personal or unworthy feelings) that I do so with regret. Had the fortune of my eldest sister’s son, Mr Taylor [one of the main beneficiaries of his will], been adequate to the honor, I might perhaps have solicited your Grace to forward my respectful request to his Majesty to continue in the family the peerage which was granted to my mother [the Barony of Chatham, conferred on Lady Hester Pitt in lieu of her husband in 1761]; but I must not urge such a request. I confine myself to the object of soliciting some provision for my nephew Major Taylor … He is a most intelligent & pleasing young man, & wd not discredit any employment which you might be good enough to give him …

I will only add how deeply I shall feel any attention which you may have the goodness to shew to this application, & I remain ith the sincerest respect & regard,

My dear Duke,

Most truly & faithfully yours,

C.”

Wellington replied promptly enough, wholeheartedly agreeing to meet with Taylor to size him up for office (PRO 30/70/4 f. 293):

“London August 5th 1830

My dear Lord

I have received your Letter; and I am much concerned to hear of your continued Indisposition.

I am convinced that you will give Credit to the Existence of the anxious desire on my Part to forward any wish of Your’s for the promotion of the Interests of any of your Family.

I beg you to send Major Taylor to me in Downing Street on any day that may be convenient to him; in order that I may converse with him on his Views; and conclude with him the best mode of forwarding them. Believe me My dear Lord with the most sincre respect and Regard Your most faithful Servant

Wellington”

Not a word on the subject of the peerage, something John no doubt spotted because he seems to have dropped the subject for a while.

Interestingly, however, the Earl of Clarendon, who copied out the draft of John’s letter to Wellington, seems to have urged John to try again, this time with the highest authority. At PRO 30/70/4 f 295 d there is a draft of an unsent letter to King William IV in which John embroiders on the theme broached in his letter to Wellington:

“I am the last & almost expiring bearer of a Title, associated with the glory of this country, & of a name, borne by one, whose eminence & whose services, (under most trying circumstances for this country & for all Europe), it does not become me to point out. It is with regret that I feel the honors & the memorial of such services expiring with myself, at the same time that I have, in my niece’s [sic] Son, Mr Taylor, a nephew who wd not discredit any mark of your Majesty’s favor, and whose children will be educated in feelings of loyalty to your Majesty, & in principles worthy of their own descent. I cannot presume to say more. I submit myself to your Majesty’s gracious consideration”.

According to Clarendon (the erstwhile John Charles Villiers, close friend of both Lord Chatham and Pitt the Younger), the idea of petitioning to continue the Barony of Chatham came from him (Clarendon to Taylor, 20 March 1836, PRO 30/70/4 f 295e), although clearly John had already approached Wellington with the suggestion. Clarendon stated that only “Ld Chathams extreme illness” prevented further consideration of the subject. Presumably lack of response to repeated hints also discouraged John enough to let the subject drop. Either way the King does not seem to have become involved. Had he done so, would we still have a Lord Chatham to this day?

In conclusion, poor John, who clearly spent his last years dwelling over his failure to continue the family name, and probably also his failure to live up to the family reputation in general. In his attempt to save the title of Chatham from extinction he failed as well. Poor John indeed.

"Likely to get Frampy"

anoondayeclipse and I (…. well, mostly A Noon-Day Eclipse) have managed to get hold of copies of the letters of Lady Harriot Eliot, sister to Pitt the Younger and the 2nd Lord Chatham. Rather gossipy, flighty things they are, but full of lovely little family vignettes.

Rather sweetly, some of the letters deal with John, 2nd Lord Chatham’s courtship of his future wife, Mary Townshend. Harriot doesn’t seem to have had much patience with John’s inability to screw up the courage to propose (Harriot was confidently expecting a “declaration” at the start of May 1783– the proposal finally came about on 21 June). There are lots of “He’s going to do it, I really think he’s going to do it this time” letters followed by “awwwww shucks, he didn’t do it after all”.

The line that made me positively hoot with laughter, though, was the following:

“My Brother and I have been beating over ye same Ground again. He is very much dissatisfied with their [Lord and Lady Sydney, Mary’s parents] precluding as he says all opportunities by not allowing of Tete a Tetes, and I wish him ye more to take some other sort of opportunity as I think in this sort of way all sides may be likely to get Frampy”.

In other words, John was complaining because “they won’t even allow us to be alone together for a second!” and Harriot was rolling her eyes and saying “Oh for goodness’ sake, get on with it already!”

(……… and what does “frampy” even mean?)

John is here!!!!!!!!!!!!

“John, Earl of Chatham, K.G. Lord President of the Council &c.&c.&c. Painted by J. Hoppner Esqr. R.A. Engraved by V. Green Mezzotint Engraver to His Majesty.  London. Published and Sold by V. Green, No. 2, New Road, opposite Fitzroy Square, Novr 9th 1799. Sold also by R. Green, No 42, Berners Street, Oxford Street.”

There was some provenance for the print, but I stupidly assumed they would send it to me so didn’t note it down. Will have to email.

That was one well wrapped parcel — paper, bubble wrap, cling film (yes you read that right), sealed card, tissue paper and the above. I think getting into Fort Knox would have been easier.

It’s huge — about A3!

*dies*

Edited to add: I have a feeling this may be the print referred to by Lady Hester Stanhope in a letter written to her grandmother the Dowager Countess of Chatham, undated but probably around 1800 or so: “Before this you must have received the likeness of the King & my two dear Uncles. The King & Mr Pitt I think perfect! & so is Ld Chathams air, but the nose I think rather defective, not being quite long enough” (pahahahahahahahahaha!). (National Archives, Hoare MSS, PRO 30/70/6/15/48)

Also have now received notice of the provenance of the print. It belonged to William Fitzwilliam Burton of Burton Hall, Carlow, Ireland (1796-1844). No idea who had it between 1844 and 2013, but it’s mine now, muahahahahahaha.

Sticking up for John again

You may recall my post a while ago about my horror at reading Richard Glover’s fulminations against the second Lord Chatham in “Peninsular Preparation”. “Relatively very few documents attributable to [Chatham] are to be found in the Chatham Papers, or elsewhere,” Glover wrote, “and it is surely significant that among them lies a trim little notebook containing lists of garden flowers written in an admirably neat italic printing hand. This suggests where his real interests lay” (Peninsular Preparation, p 39) The flower book story even gets into the latest book on Walcheren, by Martin R. Howard (Walcheren 1809, 2012).

Embarrassingly trivial, yet kind of cute, huh? I was in the National Archives today, so decided to call that little book up.


(Garden Book, from PRO 30/8/370/51)

Well.

I am NOT happy with Richard Glover. John has been traduced. AGAIN.

Who knows what the book of flowers is all about, but one thing is for sure: IT NEVER BELONGED TO JOHN.

How do I know this?

Take a look at this page:

Anything in particular leap out at you? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t spot it– it took me a moment. Here’s a clue:

King William the 4th came to the throne in 1830, Victoria in 1837. John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham died in 1835, so could never have owned a book about flowers with names like Queen Victoria.

Even supposing the name referred to another Queen Victoria (I suppose there could have been another Queen of that name on the continent), the notebook has a calendar on the inside of the cover. The calendar has no date, but lists Easter Sunday as falling on 26 March.

According to this website , Easter Sunday fell on 26 March during John’s lifetime in 1758, 1769, 1780, 1815, and 1826. We can safely discount the first three of those. 1815 is I suppose a possibility, as is 1826, but neither of them allows for the presence of a flower named after William IV. That leaves the final possibility: that the book was printed for 1837, the last year before 1967 that Easter Sunday fell on 26 March. This would certainly make it possible to name a flower after Queen Victoria, who came to the throne in 1837.

But if the book was printed for 1837 (presumably in 1836), Chatham was already dead. So he couldn’t have owned the book. And even if the flowers refer to the contents of the garden of his house at Berkeley Square, which is likely given the book is tucked up with a bundle of receipts, house inventories and life insurance documents, he never compiled it.

So much for this one of Glover’s reasons why Chatham was a useless waste of oxygen. Makes a nice story, but ultimately it’s a lie, and poor John comes out looking like an idiot again.

Can you tell I am very, very cross?

More about John in Quebec

John was still in Quebec when war broke out between Britain and revolutionary America in April 1775. He remained there for most of the first year of the war, but it gradually became clear that his presence so close to the theatre of war was undesirable on political grounds. Lord Chatham was a prominent political figure and there was some fear that John might be captured and used as a pawn to extract concessions from Britain–a fear that was nearly realised when John and General Carleton narrowly escaped capture by Canadian sympathisers with the Americans in the autumn of 1775. John’s presence in Canada was certainly well known to the American military commanders: General Washington wrote in Benedict Arnold’s instructions for invading Canada that “if Lord Chatham’s son should [still] be in Canada, and in any way should fall into your power, you are enjoined to treat him with all possible deference and respect.”

With an American invasion of Canada imminent, the decision was made to withdraw John from Canada. John seems not to have had any say in the decision: it was his mother, Hester, Countess of Chatham, who came to the conclusion that John was better out of the army. Lord Chatham was at the time suffering from one of his periodic fits of depression complicated by gout.

The following letters on the subject were written by Hester to her husband’s cousin, Lord Camelford, and are in the British Library (BL Add Mss 59490).

Hayes, 7 February 1776

“I am just come from having put the question to my Lord on what his opinion was as to his Sons continuance or not in the Army. This touch’d so many tender strings that it was impossible it shou’d not agitate Him. However he gave me his decided opinion that his quitting was indispensable, and that in the present circumstances an Exchange was not a desirable Thing, as there were strong objections to his remaining in the Army, and declining to serve.” Lady Chatham therefore asks Thomas Pitt to tell Lord Barrington of “Pitt’s Resignation, in the following Words, `That the continuance of the Unhappy War in America makes it necessary humbly to request Permission of HM for Lord Pitt to resign his Commission’”.

Hayes, 8 February 1776

Lady Chatham is not pleased that “our Son shou’d sacrifice a Profession that is agreeable to Him, and in which we might flatter ourselves He might have some success”. The decision was “very unpleasant”, but she is “compensated only by the Persuasion that there is a Propriety and Fitness in the doing it”.

Poor John, who was never really able to pursue a career of his own independently from his father or brother…

Leading by a......? : Lord Chatham's nose

Come on. You *knew* this post was coming. (If you didn’t, you should have guessed…)

I have long been aware of Sir Nathaniel Wraxall’s description of John, Lord Chatham in his Posthumous Memoirs of his Own Time (volume 3, 129 if you’re interested). Shortly before launching into a fairly damning echo of all the nasty stories he’d ever heard about John, Wraxall states:

“Lord Chatham inherited … his illustrious father’s form and figure … The present earl so strongly resembles his father in face and person, that if he were to enter the house of peers, dressed after the mode of George the Second’s reign … the spectators might fancy that the great statesman was returned once more upon earth”.

Hmmm, really? I’d never really thought of John being a spit for his father. (Although I will admit he inherited Daddy’s jaw… compare the original Hoppner of John, not the Valentine Green print, with the Hoare painting of Pitt the Elder, and the resemblance in the lower half of the face is astounding.)

And yet clearly there was something in it. Witness the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, writing to George Wilson in 1781 (quoted in Benthamiana, or select extracts from the works of Jeremy Bentham… London, 1843, p. 333): “Do you know Lord Chatham? … He has his father’s Roman nose…”

Wait, what?!

I always assumed the two older Pitt brothers looked like their mother (John’s jaw notwithstanding). John definitely had his mother’s eyes, and I thought her nose (and probably her dress sense, although I digress):

(from here)

And yet Bentham got me thinking (and yes, Wraxall too, although mostly I’d like to slap him silly, but I’m digressing again). John being the main character in my novel, I’d like to think I know what he looks like. I have seen five bona fide John-sat-in-person-for-this-portrait paintings of Lord Chatham now in addition to three derivatives, all of the Hoppner. They are all sufficiently similar that I can say, with absolute certainty, that John had sleepy blue almond-shaped eyes, a strong chin, and VERY dark hair (those eyebrows…!). BUT HIS NOSE KEEPS CHANGING SHAPE.

I’m inclining now to think that John’s nose was not as straight and pointy as I first thought. I’m not sure I can go quite so far as Bentham and say he had a “Roman nose” like his father:

… but I think he definitely did not have a perfectly straight nose.

Of the two paintings I have seen of John, two depict a short, straight nose:

(from The Death of the Earl of Chatham by John Singleton Copley: sorry it’s a bit blurred, but I was trying to look like I was checking my phone messages at the time :-D)

and

(from the John Hoppner portrait)

So far, so similar to Hester, Countess of Chatham and … definitely … NOT Roman.

But how about this?

(from the Martin Archer Shee portrait, which I otherwise loathe… you can see it in its full glory here)

Or this?

(from The Trial of Queen Caroline by Sir George Hayter: you can see the full painting [and good luck picking out John in THAT!] here)

I think the Hayter one, particularly, gives a flavour of why Wraxall might have thought John might look like Pitt the Elder if dressed up in a periwig, although it’s still not quite a classic “Roman” nose in my opinion.

And incidentally the Valentine Green print of the Hoppner gives John’s nose a rather less straight aspect than the original appears to:

For bonus points, here’s Gillray’s depiction of John in “The Death of the Great Wolf” (1795), in which John’s nose is clearly not straight:

There is another portrait of John that falls somewhere midway between straight and not straight:

It’s pretty straight on the whole and could easily be mistaken for his brother’s. And on that note, here’s Pitt the Younger’s nose by the same artist (George Romney):

… from which you can see that John and William’s noses were, basically, the same shape. So if John had a Roman nose… maybe William did too?

Or maybe it was just the name “Chatham” that made people think he *must* take after his father in some way?

Either way, I’m going to have to stop here, because I’ve run out of noses to post……..

John's later years, Part 3: "the venerable Earl"

Yesterday I thoroughly pillaged the British Library’s excellent 19th Century Newspapers database (… well, *nearly* excellent: I have one or two reservations about the search interface, but that’s another story). I habven’t used it much before, largely because I keep forgetting the 2nd Earl of Chatham clung to life until September 1835, but I found some excellent stuff about John’s later years. Slowly but surely it’s all fleshing out for me, although I still need to find more manuscript sources on the subject.

Beginning, then, with John’s return from Gibraltar in July 1825– because I’m still not quite sure what he actually did while in Gibraltar as governor– I can confirm a few things I already knew, which was that he spent August at Leamington Spa, presumably recovering from whatever illness completely floored him and knocked two and a half stone off his weight (for more see my first post on John’s later years). When in London he stayed at Thomas’s Hotel, 25 Berkeley Square, a fashionable establishment in an area he knew very well indeed.

He then moved on to Brighton, where he rented a house on Marine Parade– from 1830, and possibly earlier than that, it was Number 20 (now a hotel and nightclub– appropriately the kind of place where the patrons probably sleep all day)– and frequented Molineux’s Turkish Baths on East Cliff.

(This photo of New Madeira Hotel is courtesy of TripAdvisor)

He clearly enjoyed Brighton, as he went back every year from September or October until as late as March or April (one year he was there until May). Although his proxy vote was still deployed in the House of Lords, he does not appear to have attended, and seems to have considered himself retired: fair enough I suppose, since he was by this time seventy years old. What his health was like generally I couldn’t say: the newspapers talk about him being in “pretty good health”, for his age at least, and his main activities at Brighton seem to have included riding along Marine Parade and walking on the new pier. By the end of 1832, however, he was described as having a “weakness in his legs” that prevented him walking unaided: he still managed to ride every day though, at least until 1834, when his strength was described as “failing”.

Marine Parade, Brighton, ca 1830, from here

(No idea what might have caused the leg weakness, but you will recall from a previous blog post that John seriously injured his leg on two occasions, in 1788 and 1791: perhaps that had something to do with his later inability to walk?)

Otherwise the information pretty much accords with what I had previously found about John. He was reported as having died in March 1831: the newspapers, red-faced, later had to retract their incorrect statement. In August 1834 he had “a paralytic stroke”, but he completely recovered and spent the winter and spring in Brighton as usual. His death in September 1835 seems to have been sudden: he was reported just under a week before his death as being daily expected at his house in Brighton. I suspect another stroke may well have carried him off, as he had supposedly been in pretty good health before that.

Interestingly he seems to have been well-regarded in the press, described from 1830 onwards without fail as “venerable”. The state of his health was assiduously followed, partly perhaps because of all the pensions and emoluments that would fall vacant when he died but also, it seems, because people cared about the last surviving member of the Pitt family. The journalists’ tone was often respectful, even fond, which I found somewhat surprising given John’s reputation even in his own lifetime. The Standard wrote on 8 November 1833:

“The venerable Earl of Chatham is gone to Brighton for six months. This amiable nobleman, notwithstanding the retired habits of his life, and his extreme taciturnity in general society, was held in the highest esteem by his brother, the Right Hon. William Pitt. It was always understood that Mr. Pitt took the advice of Lord Chatham on all important measures relating to finance.”

Admittedly the first occasion I have seen of anyone suggesting John might have had input into Pitt’s financial measures, and I certainly haven’t seen any evidence to support that assertion, but I’d say there is a flavour of truth in the suggestion that Pitt was in the habit of talking things over with John and in any case it makes a nice change from “he was a complete idiot”. (And a quiet giggle at the “taciturnity” comment…)

So much for John’s very last years. I get the impression he faded away, spending most of his life on the seafront at Brighton, contributing funds to local building efforts (he was a subscriber to the chain pier, for example), occasionally using the Turkish baths and hauling himself on horseback long after he lost full use of his legs. His last years won’t make a novel any time soon: but it’s interesting to read, at least for me. I like to think that, after the horror that must, for him, have been the late 1810s, his wife’s death, and the homesickness and depression he experienced in Gibraltar, John finally found his peace on Brighton seafront.

The "Late" Lord Chatham at the Admiralty, 1794

It’s no secret that John was– how shall I put it– not the most punctual of people, and he quite liked the easy life. I certainly haven’t found much to dispute this, although I have found numerous occasions on which he attended public events before eleven o'clock in the morning, so clearly he wasn’t utterly incapable of it. ;-) But John was NOT a morning person, and… well… his nickname of the “Late” Lord Chatham was not entirely undeserved.

This nickname was first applied, I believe, after he was demoted from the Admiralty in December 1794. Sir Nathaniel Wraxall in his Memoirs (obviously completely accurate, of course………) recalled (in the late 1830s) that he was referred to as “the late First Lord of the Admiralty” (Posthumous Memoirs III, 130). It stuck even more after Walcheren, although I admit I have not seen any contemporary references to it before then.

But by the end of 1793 John’s public reputation was in tatters. Perhaps as a result of the failure of the allied coalition expedition to Dunkirk, for which John was partially blamed, nobody seemed to think he was able to do his job properly. Sir Gilbert Elliot (Life and Letters II, 160) reported on 11 September 1793, “The opinion of Lord Chatham’s insufficiency in his office is quite universal; although I know how totally inconclusive even the most general rumours are, yet I can hardly disbelieve all I hear on that point.” I have blogged elsewhere about how Michael Duffy in his article on the Dunkirk campaign considered Chatham less to blame than has been thought, but by December 1794 John was effectively dead weight. George Canning wrote regarding his dismissal in early 1795: “There was much discussion [in the House of Commons] … upon Lord Chatham’s conduct as first Lord of the Admiralty– from which discussion his character and conduct appeared to come out more clear and even praiseworthy than I, though a friend of Government, could have hoped or imagined. It is however a good thing after all that he is gone– for the voice of the publick was against him, and that is reason enough” (Jupp, Letter Journal of George Canning, 7 January 1795, p 182)

There were certainly plenty of rumours about John’s general conduct. Rumour whispered that he never got up until noon, or later (although Sir Joseph Farington, in his journal, heard from John’s colleague and neighbour Admiral Gardner that John was generally at work by half past eleven: Farington I, 64, 19 July 1794). He was supposedly addicted to partying and (again according to Elliot, quoted in Ehrman’s Younger Pitt volume 2, 379) “said to get drunk every evening”.

When I was at the National Archives on Saturday, one thing I desperately wanted to do was check out John’s attendance record as First Lord of the Admiralty on the Admiralty Board. I’d read in Duffy’s article that it wasn’t as bad as reported, being somewhere above 50% in the summer of 1793 when Dunkirk was at its height. I only managed to get hold of the records for 1794, and had to skip the second half of April and all of May because I was kicked out at the end of the day, but I carefully noted down all occasions John attended the Admiralty Board from 2 January until his last appearance after his sacking on 15 December.

The end result pretty much bears out Duffy’s conclusions. John turned up to 54.5% of all Admiralty Board meetings between Monday 2 January and Monday 15 December, 145 days out of a possible total of 266. He attended several Sundays, and attended several special Boards held at Portsmouth during the King and Queen’s visit there to commemorate the battle of the Glorious First of June. He had a big chunk out in August and September– he did not attend at all between 26 August and 29 September– but I’m guessing that was his annual “Let’s torture small birds and furry animals” holiday, and in any case I have found evidence he was quite ill for some of the time. (He also regularly sent letters in as he is still mentioned in the minutes, even though absent.)

My conclusion? Well, he could have spent most of these meetings with his feet on the table staring at the gorgeous wooden Board Room ceiling, but he still managed to pull his weight. The only person who seems to have attended more was Sir Charles Middleton, who was at every single sodding board meeting from May onwards (was the man never ill?!). There was also one Admiral (Affleck) who somehow managed to attend both the London and the Portsmouth board meetings during the King and Queen’s Portsmouth visit. But John was definitely visible. To judge from the minutes he pitched in occasionally (usually to communicate messages from the King, or Secretary of State).

So not a constant attender, but making a good effort. As a cabinet minister he had other duties, and as a courtier he would also have been required to attend official functions, which may account for some of the absences. But apart from the big September absence there are no huge acres of time off. He did have holidays, but he took them in smallish bites.

I guess this sort of thing only tells you so much … but it’s food for thought.

Over the weekend I found the printout of an old novel I started writing about Pitt when I was 17. John appears once (briefly) and is mentioned in the context of the occasion in March 1803 when he was suggested to Pitt by Henry Addington as a possible puppet First Lord of the Treasury presiding over a united Pitt-Addington government.

I quote:

“Languid Lord Chatham would head them all. He need only to have been awakened occasionally to give his opinion at cabinet deliberations. The rest of the time he could sleep in peace.”

When I get my hands on that time machine, remind me to stop by February 1997 and beat my past self over the head.