17 September 2014

William Pitt the Elder's funeral

'Original Drawings made of the Funerals of The Earl of Chatham & The Rt. Hon. William Pitt'

William Pitt the Elder, the 1st Earl of Chatham, died on May 11, 1778 at his house at Hayes Place in Kent. Nearly a month later, on Tuesday, June 9, 1778, his funeral took place at Westminster Abbey. His second son William Pitt, then a young man of 19 years old, served as Chief Mourner. Young William took a primary role in arranging the funeral of his father, and he walked behind his father's coffin in the procession. 

The British Library holds a detailed book of the drawings and manuscript notes made by Messrs. Bishop and Clark, "a firm who for upwards of 300 years have been connected with the organisation of State and civic ceremonials." [1] Bishop and Clark were established in the 16th century, and their work included pageants from as far back as the reign of King Henry VIII down to the obsequies of Queen Anne, the Queen of James I, Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, the playwright David Garrick, and the opening of the Royal Exchange by Queen Victoria in 1844 [2]. 

These beautifully detailed drawings preserve for posterity a sense of what it must have looked like at the Earl of Chatham's funeral in 1778, as well as Mr. Pitt's funeral procession in February 1806. This post focuses on the Earl of Chatham's funeral in 1778, and in my next piece I will discuss Pitt's funeral drawings from 1806.

Below is a detailed drawing of the crest of Chatham which was borne by the MP (Member of Parliament) David Hartley on June 9, 1778:

The Crests of Pitt, borne by David Hartley, Esq. M.P.

Next, the Arms of Pitt were borne by William Pulteney, MP:

The Arms of Pitt, borne by William Pulteney, MP

Messrs. Bishop and Clark also went into some detail when describing the quantity of escutcheons, banners, crests, and badges ordered by the Wardrobe which were used in the ceremony at Westminster Abbey [3]. 

These were as follows:

"8 Escutcheons on Sattin [sic] for the Pall
1 Coronet & Cushion
1 Atchievement [sic] of the House at Hayes
36 Escutcheons on Mantua Silk for the Church at Hayes
36 Crest for Do [ditto, the same]
1 Majesty Escutcheon for Painted Chamber on Silk with Gold Border round 1 yd. 1/2 Squares
Festoons for the Canopy
4 Dozen silk pencils for the Canopy & Lid of Feathers
11 Dozen 1/2 Escutcheons on Buckram for the Chamber
190 Feet of Silver Verging
70 Badges of the Crest of Pitt for Old Men’s Gowns [there was an ‘old man’ for each year of Chatham’s life - he was in his 70th year]
1 Great Banner on black Silk 2 yds. square 
11 Dozen 1/2 of Crest with Borders for Chamber
1 Standard on Red Silk 6 yards long
1 Banner 2 yds. square of the Barony of Chatham
1 Banner of Britannia 1 yds. 3/4 square
1 Do. with Crest of Pitt
6 Banner Rolls
1 Helmet
1 Crest
Mantle Robes, Shield & Sword
6 Earls Coronets for the Conductors Staves
1 Mantle" [4]

The quantity of Escutcheons, etc. used at the funeral of the Earl of Chatham 

In the image below, one gets an idea of the arrangement of the coffin, banner rolls, and the "Tables for Trophies" of the Barony of Chatham [5]. This depicts their appearance in the Painted Chamber of the old Houses of Parliament during the days leading up to the funeral:

The arrangement of the banners, tables of trophies, and the coffin as it was in the Painted Chamber

The crests, arms, and valance of canopies of the Pitt family were also drawn, including their measurements:

The Crests and Arms of the Pitt family, including canopies

The motto of the Pitt family was "Benigno Numine," which is Latin for "by the favour of the Heavens." This drawing shows the back of the canopy at the Earl of Chatham's funeral, including the heraldic features of the Pitt family (i.e. the coat of arms, motto, etc.) [6]: 

The back of the Canopy, displaying the Pitt family heraldry

After the funeral, the Pitt family requested that these banners and escutcheons were fixed up in the Church at Hayes, St. Mary the Virgin. This duty was duly fulfilled on June 20th, 1778 by Mr. Morris, the messenger of the Wardrobe, and an undertaker [7]. 

Banners and Escutcheons were fixed up at Hayes Parish Church on June 20, 1778

The man fixing the banners afterwards wrote of the difficulties associated with erecting these items at St. Mary the Virgin Church:

"Hayes Church [which was the parish church across the road from the Pitt family residence, Hayes Place] being small with an Arch’d Roof, the Banner was fix’d with Staples drove in the Beam from the top to the Wall, there being an Upright in the centre of the Beams to the Crown of the Arch. In the centre was fix’d the Surcoat with Shield in from of Sword pendant over Do [ditto] the Helmet Mantle & Crest. Over these the same Coronet as was used at the Funeral on a Cushion. To the Right Side the better to Shew the Center on each side the standard was fix’d. The great banner on the right, over the family seat on the left the Banner of the Barony of Chatham, these rather below the standard. On each side of the Shield Surcoat was fix’d the Six Banner Rolls on the cross beam, them belonging to the family of Pitt, beginning with Ld & Lady Chatham, Father & Mother next. Viz. Pitt Villiers, next Grand Father & Grand Mother on the right hand. On the left the banner belonging to the family of Grenville beginning with grand father & grand mother. The 3rd Grenville on the Left Side. In front of these was fix’d on another Beam as above in opposite page. The Banner representing Britannia weeping over the Arms of Pitt on the right, on the left the banner with the crest of Pitt with emblematic crowns of Damask with Gold Acorns on the upright was fix’d as Escutcheon & a crest.” [8]

At some point in time, these arms and banners were removed. St. Mary the Virgin church underwent drastic architectural changes during the mid-19th century, and it was later hit by a bomb during the Second World War. What became of the arms and banners of the Pitt family? It is a consolation to know that there is a memorial to the Earl of Chatham and William Pitt the younger inside St. Mary the Virgin Church in Hayes. As the memorial is  located in the oldest surviving part of the church, there is the possibility that it could be placed at approximately the same location as the banners were so long ago.


1. Pitt funeral drawings. British Library Add MS 47896.

2. Ibid, introductory page.

3. Ibid, p. 4.

4. Ibid, p. 4.

5. Ibid, p. 6.

6. Ibid, p. 7.

7. Ibid, p. 8

8. Ibid, p. 7.

Image Credits:

All images shown above are taken from BL Add MS 47896.

8 September 2014

An original Seal of Mr. Pitt

A impression of a Seal engraved with a bust of William Pitt
There is a well-preserved original wax seal of William Pitt that is in the possession of the British Library. The provenance note is as follows:

"Presented by Miss L.C. Frampton, Torquay

10 March 1880 - The original of this Seal engraved with the head of the great Mr. Pitt was formerly in the possession of the R.H. the Princess Charlotte of Wales, who herself gave the Jewellers’ impression of it to Mrs. Campbell, Keeper of her Privy Purse; and Mrs. Campbell gave it to me about the year 1826. Louisa Charlotte Frampton.”

On the inside of the seal is inscribed: 

“Gold Seals & Chains, & every description of Jewellery of the best Manufacture. Copper-plate Engraving & Printing. B. Warwick, Engraver to The Royal Family, 124, Regent Street, from 145 Strand." 

It is almost certainly the case that this seal was engraved posthumously as various memorials, busts, statues, seals, engravings, prints, and coins were created to commemorate Pitt immediately after his death. Unfortunately, there is no date apart from the fact that it was most likely created in the early 19th century (c. 1806-10). 

Image Source & Reference:

British Library Select Manuscript Reference L.2 - Impression of a seal engraved with a bust  William Pitt.

31 August 2014

Louisa, The Countess of Stanhope's verses & extracts

Louisa Grenville as a child

Louisa Stanhope (1758-1829), the second wife of Charles, the 3rd Earl of Stanhope, was fond of quoting from passages in the books and poems she had read. She was the only daughter of Margaret Eleanor Grenville (neé Banks) and Henry Grenville, and the first cousin of William Pitt the younger on his mother's side of the family. In a previous post I wrote about number 13 Bath Crescent, Louisa's home with her parents, and I spoke of her close friendship with Pitt's sister Lady Harriot. Alongside William Pitt, Louisa was also a witness at Lady Harriot and Edward Eliot's marriage ceremony in 1785

An online genealogy site claims that Louisa was born on August 10, 1758 at Wotton Underwood in Buckinghamshire. [1] The site does not give a source for this information, and it seems to be contested by Louisa herself. Amongst her papers from later life, she personally wrote that she "was born the Twenty Eighth of July 1758 in Saville Row London.” [2] I personally give credit to Louisa's own words about the basic facts of her birth. In March 1781, Louisa married Charles Stanhope. It was then just eight months after the death of Charles Stanhope's first wife, Pitt's eldest sister Lady Hester Mahon. It was not a happy marriage, but Louisa did bear Charles Stanhope three sons. 

Amongst her papers are a collection of quotes and scribblings in her own handwriting on various sizes of paper. The majority of these are without date, but it is clear that they span a long period of time. I'm sharing them on this site as they offer a fascinating insight into the life and interests of a relatively unknown Georgian aristocratic lady who was a cousin of Pitt.

Below are a sample of a few quotes in her collection:

“Write injuries in dust, but kindness in Marble”

“Possession always falls short of Expectation”

“Wealth cannot purchase, or Fashion bestow, real Happiness”

“That is the best & most valuable kind of knowledge that is most subservient to the best ends, which tends to make a man wiser and better and more agreeable and useful both to himself and Others. For Knowledge is but a means that rebates[?] to some end & as all means are to be judg’d by the excellency of ye end & thrive expediency to produce it so that must be the best knowledge that hath the directest tendency to promote the best ends and Man’s own true happiness & that of others, in which the glory of God. The ultimate end is ever necessarily comprised.” - on Self-Knowledge

“Let recollection call to view the past, and steady prudence weigh the present actions.”

“It is in the Storm that men must firmly grasp the Cloak that wraps them whatever its shape”

Sophocles - “For O! to be unhappy and know ourselves alone the guilty cause of all our Sorrows, is the worst of Woes.” [3]

Louisa, by then the Dowager Countess Stanhope, died on March 7, 1829 at the age of 70 [4]. Her death was reported in the Morning Journal, Morning Post, Morning Chronicle, Times, and Courier. One of the newspaper pieces quoted the following brief obituary: “Died on Saturday at her House in Clarges Street after a lingering illness the Dowager Countess Stanhope." [5]

As a postscript, the last surviving member of the Pitt family, William's older brother John, the 2nd Earl of Chatham, wrote to Philip Henry, the 4th Lord Stanhope (1781-1855), on March 10, 1829 to express his sincere condolences on the death of Stanhope's mother. [6] The Dowager Countess Stanhope was Lord Chatham's maternal cousin, and he admitted that he was aware the illness had been of some duration. [7] At this point in time, Lord Chatham was 72 years old, and writing from Brighton. He was, by far, the sole surviving member of the Pitt family. Five years later, in September 1835, he passed away with no children, and the Earldom of Chatham became extinct. 


2.Memoranda respecting the Birth & Death of Louisa Dowager Countess Stanhope & Memoranda in her hand writing respecting the Banks & Grenville Families. The Kent History and Library Centre. The Stanhope of Chevening Manuscripts: U1590/C118.

3. Verses, Extracts &tc in the handwriting of Louisa Dowager Countess of Stanhope and found amongst her Papers. The Kent History and Library Centre, The Stanhope of Chevening Manuscripts: U1590/C114.

4. Memoranda respecting the Birth & Death of Louisa Dowager Countess Stanhope & Memoranda in her hand writing respecting the Banks & Grenville Families. The Kent History and Library Centre. The Stanhope of Chevening Manuscripts: U1590/C118.

5. Ibid.

6. John, 2nd Earl of Chatham, to Lord Stanhope, March 10, 1829. Memoranda respecting the Birth & Death of Louisa Dowager Countess Stanhope & Memoranda in her hand writing respecting the Banks & Grenville Families. The Kent History and Library Centre. The Stanhope of Chevening Manuscripts: U1590/C118.

7. Ibid.

Image Credit:

Louisa, Countess of Stanhope (neé Grenville) as a child. Image Source

29 August 2014

'The most Perfect mind that was ever permitted to animate a Human Frame': Eliot's grief for Lady Harriot

Edward James Eliot by Karl Anton Hickel (1794)

Perhaps the largest single collection of surviving letters written by Edward James Eliot (1758-1797) are those he wrote to Eliza Pretyman, the wife of Pitt's former tutor George Pretyman. Sadly, the vast majority of these letters are melancholy and reflective in nature. This was because in late September 1786, after just a single year of marriage, Eliot's wife - and Pitt's favourite sister - Lady Harriot Eliot died in childbirth. The couple had defied the wishes of Edward's father, and married for love. Eliot had been nicknamed 'Sir Bull' in his youth, but after his marriage he was an incredibly devoted husband. 

After the death of his beloved Harriot, Eliot was left alone with his baby daughter, also christened Harriot, and he was emotionally devastated. The first in the collection of letters dates from January 16, 1787, just over three months after Lady Harriot's death. Eliot was a regular correspondent with their mutual friend, Eliza Pretyman (neé Maltby), who had known Lady Harriot well. Eliot was also a personal friend and correspondent to George Pretyman. It seems that by early 1787 Eliot knew he had no intention of leaving Downing Street. It was at that address that Lady Harriot had given birth and died just five days later, and it seems as though Eliot wanted to keep things as much the same as he possibly could. The only other location apart from Downing Street where Eliot preferred to spend most of his time was at his mother in-law's Somerset estate, Burton Pynsent. It was from there that he wrote to George Pretyman to apprise him of his intentions to remain at Pitt's house: “…If you see Pitt [in London], Pray tell Him [Pitt] that I Intend writing to Him Tomorrow or next Day, and that my Heart Begins to fail me about leaving his House [Downing St], as yet, if Ever.” [1]

Eliot suffered with depression after his wife's death, and it lingered. On January 10, 1788, he wrote to Mrs. Pretyman concerning his mental state. He was a firm believer in Christ, and the Christian faith, and this belief informed his worldly conduct: “For myself - Being by God’s help freed from much of the Depression & Dispondence [sic] which has hung upon me, I feel more at Liberty to dwell upon the Passages of that Time in which only I have Lived or can Live here, and to be Thankful for having been permitted to Contribute to the satisfaction, however shortly, of the most Perfect mind that was ever permitted to animate a Human Frame [his late wife Lady Harriot].” [2] 

In most of his letters, Eliot mentioned his Harriot. On September 26, 1789, just over three years after Harriot's death, Eliot wrote from Burton Pynsent to Mrs. Pretyman, admitting to her that despite the passage of time, “…I know I can not, I feel upon that Subject [the loss of Harriot], a sort of Independence, a Species of Superiority, which, tho' it seldom ends without the tribute of some tears to the occasion of it, I am the better & the stronger for…” [3] 

In his letters, Eliot mentions his sweet little daughter, Harriot Hester, and he gives little anecdotes about her early childhood spent primarily in the country with her grandmama at Burton Pynsent. Eliot was also there on December 22, 1789, when he imparted an adorable story to Mrs. Pretyman about how much his three year old child was like her mother:

“…I must mention one [instance] which I think the most remarkable & which was her saying very earnestly to Lady Chatham two days ago, who was Commending Her for something done like a good young Lady, that she did not like to be call’d Lady, but Love. I hardly know whether I can think how much in the spirit & almost words of my Beloved & which I was almost Certain could not have been suggested to Her by any one. She is, Thank God!, in the highest health & spirits possible.” [4]

Edward wrote faithfully to Mrs. Pretyman each year on September 25th - the anniversary of Harriot's death - and they both shared a mutual grief that did not lessen with the passage of time. On September 25, 1790, Eliot wrote from Burton Pynsent to Mrs. Pretyman to mark the somber occasion:

“…You have now witnessed how much Likeness She [Eliot's daughter Harriot] has, and may have to her Beloved Mother, of whom I Cherish & adore the Memory…It [the memory of his deceased wife, Lady Harriot] will Every Resemblance & opportunity of Recollection be ever the first & Dearest object of affection to me. If it pleases God to continue our Child to be in the sweet & amiable Temper & Disposition she now gives signs of, the World will no Doubt be something of a less Sterile Promatory [?]. I shall have to finish my Journey something Less dear than I might have had, I Trust however No Ideas of that sort will Ever induce me to forget, tho' for an hour, the way I have to Go, or the Country I have to Endeavour to arrive at, with hopes in the infinite Goodness of God of Receiving that Society for Ever which has been here broken & imperfect. Nor do I say this Looking only to Eternity. I can not tell you the Comfort it has been & is to me to Consider my Enjoyments of Life as Broken off and Finish’d, or how many better Reflections ye want of Participation in them, I am Certain it has saved & saves me: at all Events I have the Consolation of Thinking that Calamity has not been thrown away on me, that I have not been afflicted in vain. I do not, you know, apologise for writing to you in this manner at this season, & I am the less inclined to do it now from the few opportunities of Communication on this subject [the death of Harriot] I have for some time had ever with you, I will however pursue it no farther Now…” [5]

Eliot's letters to Mrs. Pretyman in particular offer the modern reader a rare glimpse of a 18th century man who was pouring his heart out onto the page. His letters are poignant, and deeply heartfelt. There is not a shred of doubt that Eliot was strong in his faith in God. On September 25, 1791, Eliot writes from Burton Pynsent to Mrs. Pretyman. It had now been five years since the death of Harriot:

“Having put off, My Dearest Madam, for some time unintentionally the Thanking you for your last kind Letter, I have I confess Latterly differed of purpose to This Day, the Telling you that my sweet Child Continues Thank God, well; & Grows, I might say truly, more & more what I wish Her, more & more like my own Harriot. In another year I think I may Intrust [sic] Her with That History [the death of her mother], & make her, I hope, Comprehend how much is required of Her, when call’d by the Name she owns & Inherits for the Grace and unsullied Beauty & Purity of which in her keeping, I feel most anxiously as well as deeply Responsible, more so I much fear that I shall Ever Answer; If I may Judge of the future by the past, I have been five Years with but one Thing to Do, one way to Go, and how slowly & unsteadily have I gone in it? Five years ago I saw Death in my Chamber, at my Right hand nearer & more unexpectedly than I think it can ever come again, all my Desires & wishes for this world with supposed Enjoyments broke off at once, & could I have believed I should be now no more prepared, no better fitted, for the Other: that is my first Duty: as it is my great wish, at this moment I hardly Dare say Hope, were that object to any Degree attain’d, I verily think I might cease to Regret all that Has pass’d. I should think undoubtedly I had Lost to me all the whole world; But saved what was more Valuable & Changed, I might hope a short interrupted, for an Everlasting [oe]  but that I am yet far from - perhaps indeed it is a thing which we should not expect, which is reserved for Him [God] in whom Knowledge stands over eternal Life. But no more of this; tho' I may, on the occasion which I am now as it were commemorating, open the feelings of my heart at the moment to you, I need not dwell upon them; I will therefore conclude by saying that go on acting my common part, something less unwillingly with my more satisfaction to myself, I hope with somewhat more to others. Begging to be always kindly Remembered to the Bishop I remain my Dear Mrs. Pretyman with all good wishes to you & yours, Your very Faithful & Affectionate Friend & Servant, Ed. J. Eliot.” [6]

In this case, we have Mrs. Pretyman's reply to Eliot's letter of late September 1791: 

“I thank you my dear Sir, for your truly interesting Letter, and I thank you with more self-satisfaction than I can express, for my heart assures me that its cherished affection for my dear departed friend, makes me, so far, deserving of the confidence with which  you so kindly honour me. With this consciousness, and under the impression of many Conversations with “your own Harriot” which will ever live in my Memory, I feel bold enough to blame you for that depressed state of mind which, if indulged, must destroy that joy & peace in believing which our Religion is surely designed to produce - but knowing as I do, from the best authority, that Humility was ever one of your characteristic virtues I the less wonder that it should now a little exceed its bounds, and lessen the comforts which properly belong to Faith in the Goodness of God, and the Atonement of Christ…her to whom I doubt not you will be reunited…” [7]

The first mention of Eliot considering a his own house after the death of his wife comes in a letter he wrote to Mrs. Pretyman from his family seat at Port Eliot, Cornwall, on November 20, 1791. He had recently spent time at Chevening, the seat of the Stanhope family, and Lady Mahon (Louisa Stanhope) had begun making enquiries about potential houses for him:

“…I am here a little longer than I expected to have been in consequence of my Father’s having been for this last fortnight or more very much indisposed, with a sort of Gouty attack, which seems to have ended in a nasty slow Fever, which I am afraid will still be a Tedious Complaint, tho' certainly much lessened in the course of the last three or four Days. I had last week a Letter from Lady Stanhope [Louisa] who has been so very good as to have been making inquiries about a House for me in the Neighbourhood of Hampstead or Highgate & says she has heard of one that she thinks will do. It seem’d to me that I had never seen either Her or Lady Hester [Stanhope] Looking so well as when I was at Chevening for a Couple of Days last month [October 1791]…” [8]

It appears that nothing forthcoming came of the properties in Hampstead or Highgate, as the following year, on September 5, 1792, Eliot was writing from Burton Pynsent to Mrs. Pretyman about a house in Clapham:

“…The Plan of my Clapham House has been Changed two or three times since my last letter to you, which I have not at present time to explain farther than to say that it seems to be now pretty well settled, & with Rooms (I think I may say considerably) Larger than the original Design.” [9]

From a surviving bill, now at Pembroke College, Cambridge, we now know that Eliot had been working with the architect John Soane in the design of these plans. 

A bill from the executors of the late Edward J. Eliot to John Soane

From the breakdown of the final bill, it appears that Eliot had asked Soane to conduct a survey and valuation of a 'Captain Lewis's house at Clapham Common,' in March 1791, and in the same year he also requested 'paid advertising for a Villa in Kent,' and a 'Clerk's time & expenses to Sydenham, Chislehurst & Roehampton to look at Houses & making Plans of three Houses.' [10] Lastly, on August 23, 1792, Soane had been 'Making two Designs for Houses' for Eliot. [11] This is corroborated in several letters Eliot wrote to Mrs. Pretyman in September 1792. 

A bill from The Ex.[ecutors] of the late Hon. E.J. Eliot to John Soane, Lincolns Inn Fields

On September 25, 1792, the sixth anniversary of his wife's passing, Eliot wrote to Mrs. Pretyman. He enclosed the plan for his Clapham house, and he explains why he did not want a house of his own before that time:

“The Inclosed Plan, my Dearest Madam, tho' not exactly the one upon which the House at Clapham is to be built, will however serve to give you some Idea, both of the Rooms, & the Disposition of them. Having no House, having lost the Society & Comforts of a House, it was as you know for some time a sort of satisfaction to me, to have no House either; But it is become now fit for me to get, is at best to have something of the kind in prospect; and upon the whole I think this the most suited to my Situation, possibly, to the Course of Life which I incline to think allotted me since the Event alluded to, a sort of Cycle a week as it were of years has pass’d, & after some experience, & I may say, much consideration, I can say the sentiments I then Received of it are in kind, unaltered. I felt it as a Trial and visitation, the habitual scene & constant Remembrance of which was a Duty and would be in time or other like all others…Experience indeed of the weakness of mine, at least, if not of human Nature, has taught me to Hope only always to be going the same Road, without the confidence of expecting to be always able to Go the same Pace. You will Believe how concern’d I was to hear from the Bishop you had been so unwell of late, I Trust however you will very soon Get over it: I will not Trouble you to answer this, but will beg to have a single Line some time from Him, with some account of you, as well as Himself & Wm. Ed. & George. I Remain Ever Most Truly your Faithful & very Affectionate Friend & Servt., Ed. J. Eliot” [12] 

The first direct reference Eliot makes to Broomfield - also referred to by Eliot as 'Clapham Lodge,' is in a letter to Mrs. Pretyman on May 15, 1795. He was, however, still spending a significant amount of time at Downing Street as he was still writing from that address throughout 1795 and 1796. 

There has been some debate over whether Eliot owned or leased the property at Clapham. It seems his landlord was, in fact, his friend Henry Thornton, as he directly names him. On February 19, 1796, Eliot writes from Downing Street to Mrs. Pretyman, informing her of Thornton's upcoming marriage: “…I don’t know whether you have heard that Mr. Henry Thornton (mine & Mr. Wilberforce’s Landlord) is on the point of marrying Miss Sykes, with whom I understand He has been long acquainted. It is not a Thing that I for one should have imagined probable.” [13] 

Surprisingly, the only letter amongst the collection that was penned from Broomfield, was composed on July 8, 1796. He tells Mrs. Pretyman: “…On Tuesday I went with Pitt to Hampstead, & endeavoured to possess him as far as my memory went, with your Sentiments & what had pass’d with Milner about Trinity Col.[lege]. In the mean while however he seem’d to have understood from a Letter of yours that you had in your own mind given up the scheme proposed originally, but had another fit & ready to be adopted; at least such was his recollection of what he had read from you. I said I was very sure my Commission did not go so far in either respect, & that I rather thought your letter could not go to the whole length he mention’d; but that I wd. write to you, when you might perhaps be able to explain what had been misunderstood. He appear’d still very much impress’d with the necessity of doing something, & determined at all events to make some effort to put Things upon a better footing. He [Pitt] looks in very good Health, & very much recover’d since I saw Him before. I am to take Harriot to Holwood to Him this afternoon, a short visit, and about Tuesday or Wednesday we shall, I believe, go off for Burton…” [14]

After this time, Eliot's letters are all written from either Downing Street or Bath, where he went during his last illness in the summer of 1797. The last letter from Eliot to Pretyman was composed at Bath in June 1797. Following this missive, there were copies of several anxious letters written by Mrs. Pretyman to Eliot in August 1797 enquiring why she did not hear from him. Eliot was already very unwell from a lingering stomach complaint, and he died at his family seat at Port Eliot in Cornwall on September 17, 1797. He was finally reunited with his adored wife. Eliot's little girl, then just under eleven years of age (her birthday was three days later), was also there with him at Port Eliot when he died. George Pretyman, the Bishop of Lincoln, was one of Eliot's executors.

The marriage register of Harriot Hester Eliot to William Henry Pringle, May 1806
Pretyman was one of two surviving guardians of Eliot's daughter, along with her uncle John, the 2nd Lord Chatham. Her other maternal uncle William Pitt had died earlier in 1806. 


1. Edward James Eliot to George Pretyman. January 16, 1787. The Kent History and Library Centre, Pitt MSS: U1590/S5/C35/1.

2. Edward James Eliot to Mrs. Pretyman. January 10, 1788. The Kent History and Library Centre, Pitt MSS: U1590/S5/C35/1.

3. Edward James Eliot to Mrs. Pretyman. September 26, 1789. The Kent History and Library Centre, Pitt MSS: U1590/S5/C35/1.

4. Edward James Eliot to Mrs. Pretyman. December 22, 1789. The Kent History and Library Centre, Pitt MSS: U1590/S5/C35/1.

5. Edward James Eliot to Mrs. Pretyman. September 25, 1790. The Kent History and Library Centre, Pitt MSS: U1590/S5/C35/1.

6. Edward James Eliot to Mrs. Pretyman. September 25, 1791. The Kent History and Library Centre, Pitt MSS: U1590/S5/C35/1.

7. Mrs. Pretyman to Edward James Eliot. September 1791. The Kent History and Library Centre, Pitt MSS: U1590/S5/C35/1.

8. Edward James Eliot to Mrs. Pretyman. November 20, 1791. The Kent History and Library Centre, Pitt MSS: U1590/S5/C35/1.

9. Edward James Eliot to Mrs. Pretyman. September 5, 1792. The Kent History and Library Centre, Pitt MSS: U1590/S5/C35/1.

10. A bill from the Executors of the Honourable Edward James Eliot to John Soane. Pitt Papers, Rare Books Room, Pembroke College, Cambridge.

11.  Ibid.

12. Edward James Eliot to Mrs. Pretyman. September 25, 1792. The Kent History and Library Centre, Pitt MSS: U1590/S5/C35/1.

13. Edward James Eliot to Mrs. Pretyman. February 19, 1796. The Kent History and Library Centre, Pitt MSS: U1590/S5/C35/2.

14. Edward James Eliot to Mrs. Pretyman. July 8, 1796. The Kent History and Library Centre, Pitt MSS: U1590/S5/C35/2.

'Necessary restoratives': Pitt's overuse of wine

18th century port bottles: Source

In 1831, The American Quarterly Review printed, amongst other articles, an extract from the Reverend George Croly's Life and Times of His Late Majesty, George the Fourth: With Anecdotes of Distinguished Persons of the last Fifty Years (1830). 

In one part of the work, Reverend Croly asserts that Pitt was merely a public man, and almost apologises for Pitt's addiction to alcohol:

"Pitt's life was in the Senate; his true place of existence was on the benches of that ministry which he conducted with such unparalleled ability and success. He was, in the fullest sense of the phrase, a public man, and his indulgences in the few hours which he could spare from the business of office were more like the necessary restoratives of a frame already shattered than the easy gratifications of a man of society: and on this principle we can safely account for the common charge of Pitt's propensity to wine. He found it essential to relieve a mind and body exhausted by the perpetual pressure of affairs: wine was his medicine, and it was drunk in total solitude, or with a few friends from whom the minister had no concealment. Over his wine the speeches for the night were often concerted, and when the dinner was done, the table council broke up only to finish the night in the house [of Commons]. [1]

It is clear to anyone interested in the life of William Pitt that Croly did not personally know him. It is agreed that Pitt's life was dedicated to the service of his country, but he did enjoy the company of his friends, and he reveled in the fleeting moments of respite he could spare from business. It is difficult to tease out the private life of a man whose existence was so exclusively political, but there is enough surviving evidence to suggest that Pitt enjoyed his personal life. He travelled to his villa at Holwood as often as he could, and he "often gave, and often accepted, small dinner parties, and took great pleasure in them." [2]

In 1823, many years after the death of Pitt, Lord Grenville (a cousin and political associate) reflected upon Pitt's overuse of wine: "Dr. Addington [Lord Chatham's physician] ruined his [Pitt's] health. Port wine was Addington's great remedy, and at Hayes [Pitt's childhood home] I used to wonder at the bumpers they were drinking, confined as I was to water. Afterwards it became necessary to him [Pitt]; and though never more affected by it than others in general, he certainly drank freely." [3] 

On one of his visits to Holwood, the landscape architect Humphry Repton remembered  that there was "a degree of cheerfulness and lightness in his [Pitt’s] manner which no one could suppose from his natural formality and stateliness of person." [4]  Repton also recalled staying overnight at Holwood after a late visit to the property in the summer of 1794. Repton was passing through Kent, and he came to Holwood one evening when Pitt was there with a large party dining with him. Repton was requested by the servants to alight, and Pitt came to him immediately. Repton recollected that Pitt assured him, 'Mr Repton never think that a visit from you at Holwood can be any intrusion since I always come here to enjoy that sort of pleasure to which no man can contribute so much as yourself.'" [5] So much for the unfeeling statesman living only for public life!

Repton continued: "While we continued talking, coffee was brought in, and it was settled that I should remain all night, 'if I could sleep in a room like a berth on board a ship,' [this sounds like Pitt's words] which was that room usually occupied by Lord Mulgrave." [6] The two men then joined the large party in the dining room., and later in the evening it was proposed that they would all sally forth to see the late improvements at Holwood by moonlight. It seems there is truth about Pitt's penchant for rising late in the morning. Repton remembered, "next morning we were out before 8 o’clock, and his [Pitt's] friends ridiculed his attempt at early rising as he seldom was up so soon (tho’ always in time to be at the Treasury by 11)." [7]

Another direct eyewitness was Eliza Pretyman, the wife of Pitt's friend and former tutor George Pretyman (the Bishop of Lincoln). She recorded in her journal of 1801 Pitt's convivial temper, his selflessness, and his great delight in private society: 

“…His own interest indeed, never in any occasion seems to occur to him. The vivacity of Mr Pitt’s disposition naturally led him to be fond of Company from Childhood; and he has ever sought relaxation from “the weighty business of the State” in the freedom of Social Converse with a set of private friends. He is extremely fond of Conversation - of lively, playful Conversation, and excels in it beyond all men. The pleasures of Conversation, and the pleasures of the Country, - not hunting & shooting, but improvements in His Grounds, reading, riding & walking…and Reading (for he read almost everything worth reading), while in Office. - At Putney, and far a long time at Holwood, after a very moderate time at dinner, Mr Pitt & each of his friends used to take a Book, or stroll out as they were inclined, till business (to which two or three hours in the Evening was always devoted) or supper summoned them; and they always retired early (about eleven) to bed." [8]

In this contemporary account by someone who knew him well, Pitt is depicted as being fond of company with his friends, intellectual conversation, reading, walking, horseback riding,  landscape gardening, and relaxation from public life. He did occasionally shoot for sport, but Mrs. Pretyman choses to play this down. 

On the subject of wine, however, Mrs. Pretyman lamented Pitt's ample consumption. Her husband, The Bishop of Lincoln, “never in his life saw Mr Pitt in the least affected by wine till the year 1798, when they were alone together one Evening at Holwood. Mr Pitt was at this time very unwell [probably June or July 1798], and in the earnestness of Conversation he filled his Glass so often as to affect his voice and manner, but not his understanding. The Bishop was excessively hurt and proposed his retiring to bed, to which he readily assented. This was the first time, but I cannot add it was the last in which the Bishop has had the poignant grief of observing similar circumstances. Alas! in other Society I fear - but I forbear. With respect to the quantity of wine which Mr Pitt has drank from early youth, which has I believe astonished many, and given rise to many false aspersions, it was prescribed for him as a medicine by Dr. Addington to drink a bottle of port wine a day when he was a boy of fourteen, and this he did do under his Tutor’s eye in the course of the day, and as a task, rather than with any wish to exceed. Mr Pitt’s constitution was remarkably delicate at an early period of life. At fourteen he weighed only six stone & two p[oun]ds [86 lbs.]. His Father, Lord Chatham, had the Gout while he was at Eton School, and the Constitutions of his Children were all thought to require a very full diet, and a great deal of port wine, and they were accordingly accustomed to this from Childhood….when motives of health originally induced the habit of drinking an unusual quantity, and till within a few years Mr Pitt had no inclination  to exceed the limits of Temperance, nor did he exceed, except perhaps in Company which led him to excess. His moderation was remarked at White’s as a part of his singular character considering his uncommon vivacity…One of my authorities for these aspersions is Mr Eliot, himself a member of White’s and living much with Mr Pitt before he married his Sister as well as afterwards…” [9]

In October 1798, Pitt's physician Sir Walter Farquhar apparently also noticed the physical effects which the excessive quantity of wine was having on Pitt's constitution. In a letter to Pitt of the time, Farquhar prescribed "nearly a Pint of Port after [dinner], but not quite - as one is apt, by the Society of Friends and the Eagerness of Conversation upon interesting subjects to forget quantity, it would be a very proper thing to have the Pint Bottle of Port put upon the table - such a measurement of restraint would answer better..." [10] This advice does not appear to have been adhered to, at least not for long. By the late 1790s, Pitt's habits of excessive wine consumption were confirmed, and the unremitting pressure of business and the war with France only increased such libations. 

It is impossible to determine how much this excessive consumption served to shorten Pitt's life, but it cannot be denied that it had some impact on his health. From such long habits of taking wine, encouraged by the physician of his youth, Pitt probably did view wine as a necessary stimulant or 'restorative' when exhaustion overtook him or convivial company influenced him to sit for hours at the dining table. It can only be wished, but alas in vain, that Pitt would have moderated himself in this respect. It may have protracted his life.


1. An extract of Reverend George Croly's Life and Times of His Late Majesty, George the Fourth: With Anecdotes of Distinguished Persons of the last Fifty Years (1830), printed in The American Quarterly Review, Vol. IX. (1831), p. 323. 

2. Ainsworth, W.H. (ed.) (1862) The New Monthly Magazine, Vol. 125. London: Chapman and Hall, p. 341. 

3. Rogers, S. (1859) Recollections, 2nd Edition. London: Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts, p. 189.

4. Humphry Repton's Memoirs. The British Library, BL Add Ms 62112. 

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Notebook by Mrs. Tomline (October - November 1801). Kent History and Library Centre, Pitt MSS: U1590/S5/C41.

9. Ibid.

10. Medical advice from Sir Walter Farquhar to Pitt, 10 October 1798. The National Archives. PRO 30/8/134.

27 August 2014

Elizabeth Williams' return to Lady Hester Stanhope

Figure 1: Charles Lewis Meryon in later life by Arminius Mayer (c. 1846)

In the spring of 1810, Lady Hester Stanhope left England permanently. She took with her a faithful maid and companion, Miss Elizabeth Williams, and they initially set off for the Mediterranean island of Malta. The choice of Malta was not accidental: Elizabeth's sister Louisa Jane David (née Williams) had already resided with her husband there since 1807. By April 30, 1810, Lady Hester's physician, Dr. Charles Meryon, was writing home from Valetta, Malta about Lady Hester's reception at Malta. It seems Hester was not especially enamoured with fellow members of her gender:

“We have now spent more than a week in Malta, and during that time, Lady Hester has contrived to affront almost all the women in the place. She has the most thorough contempt for her sex, at least that part of it who converse on nothing but visits, caps & bonnets, and such frivolous subjects. Hence it is that the moment she discovers one to be of that class, and her knowledge of mankind very soon puts her in possession of a person’s character, she seldom fails to manifest her disgust, and to give rise to as much disgust as she feels. She accepts no invitations except from General Oakes, and therefore cuts one off, who necessarily go only where she does [i.e. Meryon himself], from many pleasant parties. I am somewhat sorry for this her partiality for male society, as I find the families here are very sociable, and would be very hospitable.” [1]

Two months later, Meryon was still impressed by her Ladyship's effrontery, and the way in which she managed to get away with it:

“Lady H. continues to do any thing that others could not, without incurring the same blame that they would.” [2] In fact, it was reported around the same time by a British naval officer who made Lady Hester's acquaintance that "Ld[y]. S.[tanhope] had on a Man's Dress [i.e. trousers]." [3] In 1811, a woman wearing men's clothing - in other words, not a dress - was shocking indeed. Lady Hester defied convention, and she wasn't afraid to demonstrate her eccentric lifestyle. By July 1810 Lady Hester was bored and ready to leave Malta. Elizabeth, however, was to be left behind with her sister. 

Dr. Meryon noted that, “with a view to travelling more comfortably, Lady H. has parted with one of her maids.” [4] It is clear that this maid is Elizabeth Williams, as Meryon goes on to state that, “one of her Ladyship’s [Hester's] maids, who had got a sister married and settled here, and who has likewise picked up an admirer herself, has been dismissed with her wages & one hundred pounds for a marriage portion, and she now means to do with one maid & her valet, who, however, is to be as much about her person almost as a woman would.” [5] Evidently, Meryon did not believe it was a wise move on the part of Lady Hester, as he later wrote "How stupid" over that part of the page. No other page in his manuscripts has such a disapproving commentary.

Figure 2: Dr. Meryon writing "How stupid!" over his papers

After over five years of separation, Miss Williams was ready to leave Malta, and return to Lady Hester Stanhope. In November 1815, Meryon writes in his journal to express "...how happy I am to find she [Miss Williams] is coming.” [6] Around the time just prior to Elizabeth's arrival, Lady Hester was very despondent, and reflective upon her old life. Meryon, Lady Hester's faithful physician and near companion, recorded this sadness in detail:

“It was late in the afternoon, but she was not up, and was indeed a scene for reflection to contemplate the figure of the grand daughter of the great Lord Chatham on a wooden bedstead, something like those in soldier’s barracks, sickly and unable to refrain her emotion, with no relation or former friend near her, with nobody but myself (who had only known her long after Mr. Pitt’s death)...to think that the slights of those whom she had once looked down upon or whose intrigues she had foiled had driven her in disgust to these distant lands to live neglected and deserted. When I looked at her and thought of what she had been and what she now was I was deeply affected, and I paused a little to recover my composure. Here it was that she made this remarkable observation, speaking of herself. She said, “There seems to be a curse on impropriety. I have never seen any body made happy by it, and I am sure I am not. There’s poor Lady Young, once the most beautiful woman of her day, now living in a dirty house neglected and in poverty.” [7]
By March 1816, however, Lady Hester had something to cheer her spirits: 

“In the middle of March of this year, Lady Hester received information that Miss Williams, a young person strongly attached to her, had ventured from Malta to Cyprus in a vessel alone on purpose to join her. Miss W. owed her education and the care of her younger years to the protection of Mr. Pitt. Lady Hester afterwards took her near her person, and she left England with her ladyship in 1810. At Malta she found her sister married to an officer of the commissariat, with whom, at Lady Hester’s departure from that island, she remained; but her attachment was so great to her protectress, that after residing at Malta four years, she determined to follow her into the East. She accordingly embarked on board an Italian merchant vessel, and alone braved the hazards of a voyage which proved particularly distressing; for the autumnal gales were so violent that the ship sprung a dangerous leak, and the captain was obliged to put into Rhodes to refit. Here Miss Williams remained two or three months, whilst the ship which was found to be much damaged underwent a thorough repair. They sailed from Rhodes at the commencement of the new year. The captain, named Fanuggia, was a man of violent language and conduct; so that his crew, which was composed of very bad subjects, mutinied. The two parties came to blows more than once; and Miss Williams, oppressed with sea-sickness and lying in her cot, from which she was unable to move, often heard upon deck the clashing of swords and thought every moment that murder was perpetuating. At length they reached Cyprus, where some of the crew were put into prison, and other men being shipped, they crossed to Beyrout [sic] in the middle of March.” [8]

Miss Williams had undergone a protracted sea voyage, delays due to a leaking ship, then mutiny onboard the ship once it did set sail, intense violence, and dreadful exhaustion. 

“Miss Williams landed after a voyage of three months and a half, and was entertained by Mr. Laurella, the British agent, until recovered from her fatigue. Mrs. Fry [presumably the same Mrs. Fry who was at Chevening - Lady Hester's childhood home] was sent immediately to her, to instruct her how she was to dress herself - how [to] wear her veil in travelling - and how [to] conduct herself in this new world. About the 16th of March she left Beyrout escorted by Mr. Laurella, and I went to meet them on the road.” [9] All the while, Lady Hester "was very sensible to this mark of attachment on the part of Miss Williams.” [10] Miss Williams and Lady Hester had a long history together, and they were very close after the death of Pitt, a particularly vulnerable time in Lady Hester's life when she felt isolated and shunned by society. By 1816, Elizabeth was her only continuity to the past.

From the time of Elizabeth's return in early 1816, until her tragic death at the age of 42 in 1827, she remained with her "protectress," Lady Hester. In a curious endnote to this tale, Meryon mentions many years later - in 1859 - “… a small, very small, lock of Mr. Pitt’s hair, cut from his head when he lay a corpse in the house on Putney Heath where he died, by [Elizabeth] Williams, Lady Hester’s maid, and afterwards given by her to me [Meryon] when she joined Lady Hester at Joon Abrah.” [11] Elizabeth had carried Mr. Pitt's small lock of hair all the way from England, to Malta, to Joon Abrah in the Middle East. She had it in her possession for over a decade before entrusting it (at some unspecified date) to Dr. Meryon.

Why did she cut off a lock of Mr. Pitt's hair, and cherish it for many years? Could she have been more than just a servant? Pitt had certainly paid for her and her sister Louisa's education. There is no surviving evidence that he made these provisions for other children of servants, or indeed, for any other children. These two young girls were singled out. Why?


1. Charles Meryon's papers. The Wellcome Library. MS 5687 (file 1 of 3), f. 19.

2. Charles Meryon's papers. The Wellcome Library. MS 5687 (file 1 of 3), f. 132.

3. British Naval Journal, MS 6957. The Wellcome Library, ff. 56-57.

4. Charles Meryon's papers. The Wellcome Library. MS 5687 (file 1 of 3), f. 43.

5. Charles Meryon's papers. The Wellcome Library. MS 5687 (file 1 of 3), f. 30.

6. Charles Meryon's papers. The Wellcome Library. MS 7116, Accession number 349864.

7. Charles Meryon's papers. The Wellcome Library. MS 7116, Accession number 349864, f. 282.

8. From Travels of Lady Hester Stanhope, Vol. 3, Part. 2, pp. 295-6. 

9. Ibid, p. 297.

10. Ibid, p. 298.

11. Ibid, pp. 358-359.

Image Credits:

Figure 1: Charles Lewis Meryon in later life by Arminius Mayer (c. 1846) Image Source

Figure 2: Charles Meryon writing "How stupid!" over his papers many years later. Source: Meryon Papers, The Wellcome Library, MS 5687 (file 1 of 3), f. 30.