Boston House, Brentford

Our series on the lives of King William IV and Queen Adelaide continues with excerpts from a book entitled, Letters the Late Miss Clitherow of Boston House, Middlesex, With A Brief Account of Boston House and the Clitherow Family, edited by Rev. G. Cecil White. As the Reverend himself states in his preface: “The following pages are mainly compiled from certain letters by Miss Mary Clitherow, which have come into the editor’s possession. They afford glimpses of the Court at that time, with reference not so much to public functions as to their Majesties’ more private relations with persons honoured with their friendship.”

Our next glimpse of their Majesties is not from, but at Boston House. This unsought honour was rather deprecated, though thoroughly appreciated by their hosts, who, in spite of their intimacy with the King and Queen, never made any pretension to be more than simple gentlefolk. Colonel Clitherow was the first commoner whom William IV so honoured, probably the only one, and instances of other monarchs doing the like must be few and far between. In this case, doubtless, both their Majesties regarded it as an act of simple friendship, and not in any way as one of condescension.

'BOSTON HOUSE, 'July 10, 1834.

'On June 28, 1834, their Majesties honoured old Boston House with their company to dinner. They came by Gunnersby and through our farm at our suggestion; it is so much more gentlemanly an approach than through Old Brentford.

'The people were collected in numbers and Dr. Morris's school, and they gave them a good cheer. We then let the boys through the garden into the orchard by the flower-garden, where my brother had given leave for the neighbours to be, and it seemed as if two hundred were collected.

'We had our haymakers the opposite side of the garden, and kept the people, hay-carts, etc., for effect, and it was cheerful and pretty. The weather was perfect, and the old place never looked better.

'They arrived at seven, and we sat down to dinner at half-past. During that half hour the Queen walked about the garden, even down to the bottom of the wood. The haymakers cheered her, and had a pail of beer, and when she came round to the house, instead of turning in she most good-humouredly walked on to the flower-garden, and stood five minutes chatting to the party, which gave the natives time to get her dress by heart. It was very simple--all white, little bonnet and feathers.

'The King had a slight touch of hay asthma, the Princess Augusta a slight cold, and therefore they declined going out, which separated the party, and was a great disappointment to the people. We had police about to keep order, the bells rang merrily, and all went well. We received them in our new-furnished library.

'When dinner was announced the King took Jane, my brother the Queen, and they sat on opposite sides, the Duchess of Northumberland[*] the other side of the King, Lord Prudhoe[**] the other side of the Queen, General Clitherow and General Sir Edward Kerrison top and bottom, and the rest as they chose--Princess Augusta, Lord and Lady Howe, Lady Brownlow,[***] Lady Clinton,[****] Lady Isabella Wemyss, Colonel Wemyss, Miss Clitherow, Miss Wynyard, Mrs. Bullock, and Mr. Holmes. That makes nineteen. The Duke of Cumberland[*****] was to have been the twentieth, but Mr. Holmes brought a very polite apology just as we were going in to dinner. The House of Lords detained him.

Princess Augusta Sophia, sister of King William IV

'As to the dinner, it was so perfect that it was impossible to know a single thing on the table, and that, you know, must be termed a proper dinner for such a party. My brother gave a carte blanche to Sir Edward Kerrison's Englishman cook, and, to give him his due, he gave us as elegant a dinner as ever I saw. Our waiting was particularly well done--so quiet, no in and out of the room. Everything was brought to the door, and there were sideboards all round the room, with everything laid out to prevent clatter of knives, forks, and plates. Etiquette allows the lady's own footman in livery, and we had ten out of livery, the King and Queen's pages, seven gentlemen borrowed of our friends, and our own butler. They all continued waiting till the ladies left the room.

'We were well lit, wax on the table and lamps on the sideboards, and many a face I saw taking a peep in at the windows. The room was cool, for the Queen asked to have the top sashes down.

'The King was not in his usual spirits. He said had it been the day before he must have sent his excuses. The Queen was all animation, and the rest of the party most chatty and agreeable. The King bowed to the Queen when the ladies were to move.

'Our evening was short, as they went at half-past ten. The Princess played on the piano, and my brother and Mrs. Bullock sang one of Ariole's duets at the Queen's request. When they went the sweep was full of people to see them go, and their Majesties were cheered out of the grounds.
King William IV

'We had with us our little nephew Salkeld,[*] whom my brother puts to Dr. Morris's school. H e came in to dessert, a day the child can never forget. The King asked him many questions, which he answered distinctly, with a profound bow, and then backed away. He looked so pretty, for the awe of Royalty brought all the colour to his cheeks. I felt rather proud of him, he did it so gracefully. The Queen told him she hoped he would make as good a man as his excellent uncle. After dinner the Princess Augusta called him to her in the drawing-room, saying, "I like that little fellow's countenance; he is quite a Clitherow." She talked to him of cricket, football, and hockey, telling him when she was a little girl she played at all these games with her brother, and played cricket particularly well.

'That we are proud of this day we cordially own, for my brother is the first commoner their Majesties have so honoured; but we feel we ought not to have done it. When Jane, with her honesty, told the Queen we were not in a situation to receive such an honour, her answer was: "Mrs. Clitherow, you are making me speeches. If it is wrong I take the blame, but I was determined to dine once again at Boston House with you.'

'The absurd conjecture of people at the expence of the day to my brother induces me to tell you what it actually was, as we should be ashamed at the sum guessed at. I have made the closest calculation I possibly can, which includes fees to borrowed servants, ringers, police, carriage of things from and to London, and I have got to L44. Never was less wine drank at a dinner, and that I cannot estimate, but L6, I think, must cover that. We had two men cooks, for he brought his friend, and we got all they asked for. Really, I think we were let off very well at L50.

[*] Wife of Hugh, third Duke, and daughter of the first Earl Powis. She was governess to H.R.H. the Princess Victoria, our late gracious Queen.

[**] Algernon Percy, second surviving son of the second Duke of Northumberland, F.R.S., and Captain R.N.; born 1792. Created Baron Prudhoe 1816. On the death of his brother he succeeded to the dukedom, which, on his death in 1865, passed to his cousin, the second Earl of Beverley.

[***] Emma Sophia, daughter of the second Earl of Mount Edgecumbe; born 1791, married, 1828, the first Earl Brownlow. She was Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Adelaide.

[****] Widow of the seventeenth Baron Clinton, Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Adelaide. In 1835 she married Sir Horace Beauchamp Seymour, K.C.H.

[*****] He became King of Hanover on the death of William IV.

[*] He became a hero in the Indian Mutiny, losing his life in volunteering to blow up the Cashmere Gate at Delhi in 1857.

Queen Adelaide

AFTER a short illness, William IV. died at Windsor Castle on June 20, 1837. On July 17 Miss Clitherow wrote as follows:

'Thank you very much for writing to me. I always enjoy your letters, and delight to hear from you. I feel I did not deserve it, so much time has elapsed since I wrote to you. But I dislike writing when the spirits are below par, and how could they be otherwise with the afflicting event which has befallen the country? Great were our apprehensions for the dear Queen when she was so ill and could attend none of the State entertainments, but the King's death never entered our ideas. On June 3 my brother went by command to Windsor. He sat with
the King while he ate his early dinner. He was cheerful and chatty, and had only sent for him for the pleasure of seeing and conversing freely with him, which he did for above an hour, and the last thing his Majesty said was, "Thank you for coming; it always does me good to see you, and very soon you and Mrs. Clitherow must come to Windsor for a few days and your sister.' How little he thought his days were numbered, and that he should never see him more! He then appeared so little ill my brother returned home quite in spirits, and on the
twentieth he was dead--only seventeen days.

'Since the Queen Dowager got to Bushey Lady Gore has written to us. The description of her resigned pious mind is beautiful, and Lady Gore[*] assures us she really hopes her health has not materially suffered from all she has gone through, particularly the last sad ceremony.

'My brother was deputed to present the address of condolence from the magistrates to the Dowager Queen. He dreaded it, but he wrote to Lord Howe to know how and when, and was answered--Queen Adelaide receives no addresses; but those she received on the throne from the City, etc., those she must receive. We are delighted at this, as it was too much to impose upon her. Addresses are pouring in from all quarters, and Lord Howe is to receive them.'

[*] Wife of General Hon. Sir Charles Gore, G.C.B., K.H., third son of the second Earl of Arran, a Waterloo officer.

As Queen Adelaide received no visitors, except such as she could not refuse, in her widowhood, the King's death closed her intimate intercourse with the Clitherows. It seems, however, just to the memory of both the King and Queen to insert the following testimony to her tender affection for her husband, and her delicacy of feeling respecting his previous relations with Mrs. Jordan.

Dorothea Jordan by Hopper

BOSTON HOUSE, September 23, 1837. 'I dare say you look to me for some true account of our dear Queen Adelaide. We have not seen her, but have been much gratified by her recollection of us. She sent a most kind message by Mr. Wood, with the little book he wrote at her command of William IV.'s last days--a copy to my brother and one to me. 'Very lately we began to doubt whether we ought not to go to Bushey as we used to visit her Majesty at Windsor, and Mrs. Clitherow wrote to consult Lady Denbigh. She acted most kindly to us, for she waited an opportunity of showing the note to the Queen. Her Majesty's answer was, it would be a 'real comfort to her to see Mrs. Clitherow, but it would open the door to so many; she could not without giving great offence. Lady Denbigh added Her Majesty had received no one yet, except those whom she was obliged to admit. 'Mrs. Clitherow dined in company with Miss Hudson, one of the Dowager's Maids of Honour, whom we know very well. She gave a delightful account of the dear Queen, her mind so peaceful, always occupied, much interested with her sister and her children, constantly doing charitable acts, and for ever talking of the King, and hoping she had thoroughly done her duty. Miss Hudson was in waiting for five weeks, and the first three she was very uneasy about Her Majesty's health, and thought her sadly altered; but the last two her cough had almost entirely ceased, and she had slept remarkably well. 'You have no doubt seen the book I allude to, for 'tis now to be had for sixpence. Could anything be so extraordinary as the conduct of the Bishop of Worcester? Her Majesty sent him a copy, and he sent it to the editor of a newspaper. When the Queen read it in a public paper she was very indignant, and the gentleman who was told by her to discover who "the high dignitary in the Church" was, told us Carr, Bishop of Worcester. The man who has been quite the Court Bishop should have known better. 'One act of the Queen Dowager I must tell you: the Queen (Victoria) sent a message by Colonel Wood and Sir Henry Wheatley requesting she would take anything she chose from the Castle; she selected two--a favourite cup of the King's, in which she had given him everything during his last illness, and the picture from his own room of all his family. It was a singular picture, all the Fitz-Clarences grouped, and in the room Mrs. Jordan hanging a picture on the wall, the King's bust on a pedestal, and all strikingly like. I think it shows a delicacy of feeling to her King which was beautiful. It was a picture better out of sight for his memory. Now, this you may believe, for Colonel Wood told us. He transacted the business, and Queen Adelaide has the picture. 'Believe me, 'Yours very truly, Mary Clitherow.' Neither Queen Adelaide nor the three friends long survived the kindly monarch they loved so well. Colonel Clitherow died in 1841; his sister, who became totally blind, early in 1847; and his true and honest wife, the last of the Boston House trio, died in March of the same year.

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