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.