13 November 2013

Pitt's precious possessions

This evening I read an anecdote of what befell several of Pitt’s personal possessions after his death in January 1806. The information was current as of 1864, so I sincerely wonder the whereabouts of these items… "Mr. Pitt gave his watch to his servant, who handed it over to Mr. Dundas, M.P., more than twenty years after Mr. Pitt’s death. That watch, a mourning-ring, and a box containing the hair, were bequeathed to the Rt. Hon. R.N. Hamilton; and the watch is now preserved at the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge."

Timbs, J. (1864) ‘A century of anecdote from 1760-1860, Vol. 1, pp. 182-183.

It’s now nearly 150 years later, and I’d give anything to know what happened to these precious Pitt-related items! Perhaps the watch is still at the Fitzwilliam Museum but they may be unaware that the watch once belonged to Pitt? The lock of Pitt’s hair is probably that which is at the Kent History and Library Centre at Maidstone under the Pitt MSS. But where is the mourning-ring? The late historian John Ehrman, and the most definitive biographer of Pitt to date, believed the mourning-ring was for Pitt’s beloved sister Lady Harriot Eliot, who tragically died just after childbirth at 28 years old in 1786 (see volume 3 of Ehrman’s ‘The Younger Pitt: The consuming struggle’). It could be in a private collection, or still in the possession of Lady Harriot’s descendants.

If anyone knows more, I’m more than happy to speak with you!

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