It is a well known fact that Frederica, Duchess of York, was a huge animal lover and that she kept many pets at her country home, Oatlands Park. In fact, on my last visit to England, I went to Oatlands to see her pet cemetery with my friend Hester Davenport. It was only recently, however, that I discovered that Lady Castlereagh also kept a private zoo. Here is what Mrs. Arbuthnot wrote:
September 4, 1820 – Returned to town, having first seen Lady Castlereagh’s establishment for animals. She has got an antelope, Kangaroos, Emeus, Ostriches and a tiger, which Lord Combermere brought from the West Indies for the Duke of Wellington and which the Duke gave to Lady C. It seemed very vicious and growled at us.
My great, good friend Susan Brown pointed me to the following passage, which she found on the Regency Reader:
Marked by several contemporaries to be devoted and quite in love, the marriage produced no children. Instead, Lady Castlereagh kept a menagerie of animals at their country home, Loring Hall in iron cages; contemporary George Berkeley said of her pets “ It seems a strange taste for a lady patroness at Almacks, and one of the most distinguished leaders of the beau monde, to attempt to rival Exeter Change in a small country residence…nevertheless at the gay fetes given by her during the season to her innumerable fashionable friends, no part of the entertainment was more popular than the exhibition of Lady Castlereagh’s pets.”
Berekley goes on to suggest that subordinates of Lord Castlereagh at the War Office tried to ingratiate themselves, while stationed abroad in India and Africa, by sending his lady wife a tiger (known to be bad-tempered), armadillo and other wild animals. She also had, as she told an American dinner companion, a mockingbird and flying squirrel–although the mockingbird would not sing. This discomfitted her, as she was wanting to procure a hummingbird from the US but was worried, once on English soil, that “it wouldn’t hum.”
Aside from her more exotic animals, Lady Castlereagh was adoring of her bull mastiffs, who were said to ride in the carriage beside her. It was one of these dogs that created a stir, when one bit Lord Castlereagh after he tried to intervene in a squabble.”
For a brief bio of Lady Castlereagh, I direct you to Wikipedia:
Amelia Anne Stewart, Marchioness of Londonderry (20 February 1772 – 12 February 1829), from 1794 until 1821 generally known as Emily Stewart, Lady Castlereagh, was the wife of the Georgian era Irish statesman Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, who from 1812 to 1822 was British Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons. Well-connected by birth to the aristocracy and wife of a prominent politician who was Britain’s leading diplomat during the close of the Napoleonic Wars, Lady Castlereagh was an influential member of Regency London‘s high society.
During the Regency of George IV, Lady Castlereagh, along with Lady Jersey, Dorothea Lieven, Lady Cowper, and others, was a Lady Patroness of Almack’s, one of the first and most exclusive mixed-gender social clubs in London. In their role as Patroness, they had great influence over the ton, determining social acceptance by designating who might receive “vouchers” (entrance tickets) to Almack’s, thereby setting and enforcing complex, unwritten social codes of the London social elite.