From The Creevey Papers
(Written while at) Raby Castle [Earl of Darlington’s], Feb. 16th, 1825.
“. . . This house is itself by far the most magnificent and unique in several ways that I have ever seen. Then what are we to say of its being presided over by a poplolly! A magnificent woman, dressed to perfection, without a vestige of her former habits — in short, in manners as produceable a countess as the best blood could give you. … As long as I have heard of anything, I have heard of being driven into the hall of this house in one’s carriage, and being set down by the fire. You can have no idea of the magnificent perfection with which this is accomplished. Then the band of musick which plays in this same hall during dinner! then the gold plate!! and then— the poplolly at the head of all!!!'”
Note: The 3rd Earl of Darlington was created Duke of Cleveland in 1833. By his second wife, alluded to above, who died in 1861, he had no children.
Poplolly – From the French poupelet, meaning literally “little darling.” In Creevey’s time, a derogatory term, often used when referring to kept women or mistresses.
Creevey (Lord love him) continues to accept Lady Darlington’s hospitality whilst sneering at her behind her back –
Raby, 20th Feby. (1825)
“. . . My lady [Darlington] drove me about and shewed me many lions I had not seen before. I am compelled to admit that, in the familiarity of a duet and outing, the cloven foot appeared. I don’t mean more than that tendency to slang, which I conceive it impossible for any person who has been long in the ranks entirely to get overt. To be sure when I gaze at these three young women,* and at this brazen-faced Pop who is placed over them, and shews that she is so, the whole transaction — I mean the marriage, appears to me the wickedest thing I ever heard of; for altho’ these young ladies appear to be gifted with no great talents, and altho’ they have all more or less of the quality squall, yet their manners are particularly correct and modest. . . .”
*Lord Darlington’s daughters by previous marriage
By June 6th, 1825, Creevey is writing ” . . . Our dinner at Bruffman’s yesterday was damnable in cookery, comfort, and everything else, tho’ the dear Countess of Darlington was there, better dressed and looking better than any countess in London . . . .”
Five months on, it appears as though Lady Darlington has finally, and completely, won Creevey over. He writes –
Nov. 3, (1825) Newton House [Earl of Darlington’s hunting box, Yorkshire].
“. . Nothing on earth can be more natural and comfortable than we all are here. The size of the house, as well as of the party, makes it more of a domestic concern than it is at Raby, and both he and she shine excessively in this point of view. As for her [Lady Darlington] I consider her a miracle. To see a ‘ bould face ‘ turn into a countess, living in this beautiful house of her own, and never to shew the slightest sign of being set up, is so unlike all others of the kind I have seen, that she must be a very sensible woman. Then she is so clean, and she is looking so beautiful at present. . . .”
So, what did Creevey have against Lady Darlington? William Henry Vane, 3rd Earl of Darlington, 1st Duke of Cleveland (1766-1842) married his cousin, Lady Catherine Powlett (1766–1807), a daughter of the 6th Duke of Bolton.
The Duke’s (although he was at the time just the 5th Baron Barnard and 3rd Earl of Darlington, and no more – he became Marquis of Cleveland in 1827, and Duke of Cleveland in 1833) second marriage, to Elizabeth Russell, took place on 27th July 1813 at William Harry’s London residence at 31 St James Square, by ‘special licence’, about six years after the death of his first wife Katherine. It’s difficult to determine how long the Duke had known Elizabeth before their marriage – or how well.
In any case, his marriage to Elizabeth ‘outraged polite society,’ it is recorded (even in Burke’s Peerage). Quite probably, it outraged Catherine Powlett’s mother the most – said mother being the last Duchess of Bolton, also named Katherine Powlett (though née Lowther) – and, worse, she was sister to the Duke’s own mother – thus both his mother-in-law and his aunt. That she was dead set against the Duke’s second marriage to Elizabeth becomes obvious when we learn that all seven surviving children from Catherine & William’s marriage changed their surnames in 1813, to Powlett (or Vane Powlett) on the express instructions of the Duchess of Bolton’s Will.
So – what did so many have against the second Lady Darlington? Elizabeth Russell was a market gardener’s daughter – he being Robert Russell of (the above mentioned) Newton House in Burmiston (also written Burnestone, now Burneston), in the county of North Yorkshire. Her father’s unexalted station in life was one thing, but Elizabeth’s own reputation was quite another – she’d made a ‘name’ for herself by being the mistress of Thomas Coutts, the banker whose name is still remembered as the famous bankers for the Royal Family in the Strand, London.
As Creevey’s pen attests, Lady Darlington obviously had a winning personality, which in no way affected the advancement of her husband through the peerage. The 3rd Earl was created Marquess of Cleveland in 1827 and Duke of Cleveland in 1833. These titles, and the Earldom of Darlington, became extinct on the death of the 4th Duke (and 6th Earl) in 1891. The barony of Barnard remains extant.
You can visit the Raby Castle website here.
I am a firm believer in using primary sources when doing research, my personal favorite resource being diaries and letters of the day. Prince Puckler Muskau, Princess Lieven, Horace Walpole, Lady Shelley, etc., etc., etc. all have a place on my shelf and I re-read them frequently. As we’ll be running a few posts using various amusing passages from these letters, I thought that an introduction to both Creevey and his Papers were in order, had you not met them before.
Thomas Creevey was born in Liverpool in 1768, the son of a merchant sea captain who transported slaves. It has been suggested, though never proven, that Creevey was natural son of Lord Molyneux, later first Earl of Sefton. He studied at Queens’ College, Cambridge, and then trained as a lawyer. In 1802, Creevey met and married Eleanor Ord, daughter of Charles Brandling, MP, widow of William Ord, who had six children and a private income – very handy for a man who never earned much on his own. The couple, by all accounts, were very happily married, with Creevey regarding all the Ord children as his own. Also in 1802, thanks to his uncle, Creevey became a Whig MP in the House of Commons. In 1806, the Prime Minister, Lord Grenville, appointed Creevey as Secretary to the Board of Control, but he lost the job when Grenville resigned the following year. After unsuccessfully fighting against the development of the railways, and supporting Lord Grey and his plans for Parliamentary reform, Creevey lost his seat, as a result of those reforms. Grey made him Treasurer of the Ordnance in 1830, and then Lord Melbourne made him treasurer of Greenwich Hospital. From 1818 on, after his wife died, Creevey was a rather poor man, although he remained popular. He is mostly remembered because his writings, including intermittent diary extracts, were published in 1903, under the title of ‘The Creevey Papers’. The book is considered important because of Creevey’s gossipy, almost Pepysian, insights into many of the main characters of the period.
From the Greville Memoirs
February 20th. (1838)—I made no allusion to the death of Creevey at the time it took place, about a fortnight ago, having said something about him elsewhere. Since that period he had got into a more settled way of life. He was appointed to one of the Ordnance offices by Lord Grey, and subsequently by Lord Melbourne to the Treasurer ship of Greenwich Hospital, with a salary of 600l. a year and a house. As he died very suddenly, and none of his connexions were at hand, Lord Sefton sent to his lodgings and (in conjunction with Vizard, the solicitor) caused all his papers to be sealed up. It was found that he had left a woman who had lived with him for four years as his mistress, his sole executrix and residuary legatee, and she accordingly became entitled to all his personalty (the value of which was very small, not more than 300/ or 400l.) and to all the papers which he left behind him. These last are exceedingly valuable, for he had kept a copious diary for thirty-six years, had preserved all his own and Mrs. Creevey’s letters, and copies or originals of a vast miscellaneous correspondence. The only person who is acquainted with the contents of these papers is his daughter-in-law, whom he had frequently employed to copy papers for him, and she knows how much there is of delicate and interesting matter, the publication of which would be painful and embarrassing to many people now alive, and make very inconvenient and premature revelations upon private and confidential matters. … Then there is Creevey’s own correspondence with various people, especially with Brougham, which evidently contains things Brougham is anxious to suppress, for he has taken pains to prevent the papers from falling into the hands of any person likely to publish them, and has urged Vizard to get possession of them either by persuasion, or purchase, or both. In point of fact they are now in Vizard’s hands, and it is intended by him and Brougham, probably with the concurrence of others, to buy them of Creevey’s mistress, though who is to become the owner of the documents, or what the stipulated price, and what their contemplated destination, I do not know. The most extraordinary part of the affair is, that the woman has behaved with the utmost delicacy and propriety, has shown no mercenary disposition, but expressed her desire to be guided by the wishes and opinions of Creevey’s friends and connexions, and to concur in whatever measures may be thought best by them with reference to the character of Creevey, and the interests and feelings of those who might be affected by the conents of the papers. Here is a strange situation in which to find a rectitude of conduct, a moral sentiment, a grateful and disinterested liberality which would do honour to the highest birth, the most careful cultivation, and the strictest principle. It would be a hundred to one against any individual in the ordinary rank of society and of average good character acting with such entire absence of selfishness, and I cannot help being struck with the contrast between the motives and disposition of those who want to get hold of these papers, and of this poor woman who is ready to give them up. They, well knowing that, in the present thirst for the sort of information Creevey’s journals and correspondence contain, a very large sum might be obtained for them, are endeavouring to drive the best bargain they can with her for their own particular ends, while she puts her whole confidence in them, and only wants to do what they tell her she ought to do under the circumstances of the case.
More of Thomas Creevey soon!
In addition, I regularly found mourning photographs, or postcards, featuring royal figures. The advent of photographs, and especially daguerreotypes in 1839, made portraiture available to everyone and it was soon adapted for mourning purposes, with Queen Victoria embracing the medium wholeheartedly. Due to published images of Queen Victoria and her family in mourning for Prince Albert like those below, it soon became the vogue to have photos made of oneself in mourning.
In addition, the old fashioned mourning, or momento mori, memorabilia issued upon the deaths of public figures also adapted photographs into their designs.
When Napoleon III died, the Illustrated London News of January 25, 1873 ran the following engraving, which was drawn from a post mortem photograph taken by Mssrs. Downey. By this time, photographs of mourners and funerals had taken a back seat to photographs of the dead themselves.
The Duke of Wellington is connected to the Charge of the Light Brigade through his association with Lord Fitzroy Somerset (at left), who was both his military secretary and his nephew by marriage.
Field Marshal FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, Baron Raglan (1788 – 1855), was a British soldier who distinguished himself particularly in the Spanish parts of the Napoleonic campaign. He was badly wounded by five stab wounds to the shoulder at the Battle of Buçaco, after Fuentes de Onoro became brevet-major, as a volunteer helped storm Ciudad Rodrigo, and subsequently led the storming of Badajoz, and personally secured and quickly held one of the gates before the French could respond.
He was the eighth and youngest son of Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort, by Elizabeth, daughter of Admiral the Hon. Edward Boscawen. His elder brother, General Lord Edward Somerset (1776–1842), distinguished himself as the leader of the Household Cavalry brigade at the Battle of Waterloo. Fitzroy Somerset was commissioned onto the 4th Light Dragoons on 9 June 1804, being promoted to Lieutenant on 30 May 1805. In 1807 he was attached to the Hon. Sir Arthur Paget’s (later Marquess of Angelsey) embassy to Turkey, and the same year he was selected to serve on the staff of Sir Arthur Wellesley in the expedition to Copenhagen. In the following year he accompanied Wellesley to Portugal, and during the whole of the Peninsular War was at his right hand, first as aide-de-camp and then as military secretary. Lord Hardinge later remarked that he had first become acquainted with Lord FitzRoy Somerset at the battle of Vimiera, “when we of the same age were astonished at the admirable manner in which he then performed the duties of aide-de-camp, and at the great respect with which he was treated by Sir Arthur Wellesley. It was remarked on all occasions that if there was a word of advice to which that great man would listen with unusual patience, it was that which proceeded from Lord FitzRoy Somerset. During the whole period that the Duke of Wellington was in the Peninsula—with the exception, I believe, of a short time when he was in England for the benefit of his health—Lord FitzRoy Somerset was at his right hand. He was present at every one of those actions which illustrate the career of our great commander; on every occasion he was foremost in the field, and he displayed the same valour and courage which have so conspicuously marked his conduct in the Crimea.”
On 6 August 1814 he married Lady Emily Harriet Wellesley-Pole, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Mornington, the Duke of Wellington’s niece. As Lady Shelley tells us, “On August 5, 1814, the Duke dined with his regiment at Windsor, and on the following morning returned to town to be present at Emily Pole’s marriage with Lord Fitzroy Somerset. While passing through Brentford the wheel of his carriage came off twice. The Duke immediately sprang into a market cart, in full costume as he was, and arrived at the church only a few minutes after the time fixed for the wedding. He gave the bride away, and then dressed for the opera. I met him there, and he took care of me to the carriage.”
Between the Napoleonic campaigns, Lord Somerset was secretary to the British embassy at Paris and when Napoleon returned to France he once more became aide-de-camp and military secretary to the Duke of Wellington. At Waterloo his arm was injured and amputated. At the end of the surgery he told orderly not to take away his arm until he had removed a ring that his wife had given him. He quickly learned to write with his left hand, and on the conclusion of the war resumed his duties in Paris.Wellington recommended him as the aide-de-camp to the Prince Regent, a post that was given on 28 August 1815 together with the rank of Colonel. Raglan returned to the British embassy at Paris and remained there as secretary until the end of 1818 when the allied armies were withdrawn from France. For two short periods in the 1820s he was MP for Truro. In 1819 he was appointed secretary to the Duke of Wellington when Wellington became Commander-in-Chief of the army after the Duke of York died on 22 January 1827 and from 1827 till the death of the duke in 1852, Somerset served as his Military Secretary at the Horse Guards. Wellington described him as ‘a man who wouldn’t tell a lie to save his life’.
Somerset’s political career culminated in his being appointed a Privy Counsellor in 1852, when he was created Baron Raglan.
At the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1853, Raglan was chosen to command the British troops, despite the fact that he was sixty-five years old and had never led troops in the field. He left London on 10 April and reached Constantinople at the end of the month. In 1854, Raglan (at left) was made full General and joint commander of the Crimean campaign in co-operation with a strong French army under Marshal St. Arnaud and afterwards, up to May 1855, under Marshal Canrobert. Here his diplomatic experience stood him in good stead in dealing with the generals and admirals, British, French and Turkish, who were associated with him; however, the trying winter campaign of the Crimean War showed that becoming a General was a step too far for Raglan. His failure to give coherent or timely commands on the field of battle led to numerous mistakes, and his blind ignorance of the growing rivalry between the Earl of Lucan and the Earl of Cardigan would have tragic consequences in the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade.
The Charge of the Light Brigade was a disastrous charge of British cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces on 25 October, 1854 during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War. Subsequently Raglan was pilloried by the press, rightly or wrongly, for the conditions which led to so many troops being unfit to serve, falling seriously ill or dying, and being responsible for the incompetent chain of command and poor tactics which led to Inkerman and then the Charge of the Light Brigade. To be fair, much of the responsibility must fall on authorities in the UK, and appalling logistics from there.
Today, the incident is best remembered as the subject of a famous poem entitled The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whose lines have made the charge a symbol of warfare at both its most courageous and its most tragic.
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Oddly enough, despite Raglan’s military unpopularity, he was put in charge of the general assault on Sebastapol on 18 June 1855 – the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. It was to be preceded by a two-hour cannonade but the French commander decided at the last moment to attack at daybreak, a decision that Raglan reluctantly accepted. The result was disastrous. The French columns were driven back with heavy loss. Raglan ordered the British forward against the Redan where the two leading British columns met a murderous fire of grapeshot and musket fire. Raglan felt responsible for the failure. He was already suffering from dysentery and on the evening of 28 June he died. His body was taken to a ship called the Caradoc with the full military honours and the seven miles of road from his headquarters to Kazatch Bay were lined with troops. The ship reached Bristol on 24 July; Raglan was buried privately at Badminton on the 26 July.