‘Uncle Arthur Wellesley? He’s not all that!’ – Wicked William goes to War

 

 wickedwilliamyoung         wellington

‘Wicked’ William and the Duke of Wellington were remarkably alike in appearance

 

Little has been written about ‘Wicked’ William Long-Wellesley beyond his role in the destruction of Wanstead House. My research (and this blog) will show that William’s long and turbulent life encompassed far more than the mere dozen years it took him to plunder Wanstead’s treasures and lay waste to its estates.

Today we go back to 1808; the place is Portugal and it is mid-summer. General Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) has just landed at Mondego Bay leading a British expeditionary force numbering 14000 men – this being the very start of his 6-year fight to liberate the Iberian Peninsula from Napoleon’s occupying forces. Amongst Arthur’s considerable retinue we find one William Pole, a 20-year-old aide-de-camp on his first tour of duty. Considering Arthur’s already legendary reputation for precision, this seems an odd appointment. Yet closer scrutiny shows that even the greatest military strategists are often bound by family obligation – thus lumbered with errant relatives, in the hope some good may come of the exercise.

 mondego bay

 He’s out there somewhere – ‘Wicked’ William lands in Portugal, 1808

 

William Pole was one such stray – foisted upon Arthur by older brother William Wellesley-Pole. It was a kind of trade-off in favours because Wellesley-Pole was Arthur’s most reliable and trusted confidante, protecting his interests at home – therefore Arthur could hardly refuse taking this wild but spirited boy under his wing. So it came to pass that ‘Wicked’ William and Arthur Wellesley went off to war together, offering a possibly unique opportunity to see our greatest General on the battle front, through the eyes of his own family.

 

rolica

At Roliça & Vimeiro William’s role involved delivering messages between regiments

 

Without delving too deeply into events in the field, it was a very exciting beginning for William. He first saw action at the Battle of Roliça on 17th August, where Arthur’s men defeated an outnumbered French army under General Delaborde. The next day William wrote to his mother

 I seize this, the earliest opportunity; to send you such most pleasing intelligence. I have escaped unhurt; the action was most severe and cost many brave lives… We found ourselves led into a labyrinth of narrow passes and impassable mountains. Sir Arthur, cool and collected, ordered the artillery to advance; and shots for shots were frequently exchanged between us and the enemy… The volley of the shots became less frequent; our foes were cleared for the heights… at length abated and left us master of the field of battle.

Four days later the French returned in greater numbers hoping for the element of surprise– But they were again defeated at the Battle of Vimeiro – putting an end to the French invasion of Portugal.

cintra

Arthur Wellesley was lambasted for his role in the Convention of Cintra

Yet this result would have been much more decisive but for the fact that two more senior British Generals arrived on the scene in the heat of battle, relieving Arthur Wellesley of his command. They prevented Arthur’s pursuit of the vanquished French armies and subsequently agreed an overly generous truce. The Convention of Cintra signed on August 30th allowed the entire French army free passage out of Portugal, and more importantly fit to fight another day. To add insult to injury the Royal Navy laid on ships to carry other French troops and munitions back home. This news was received with outrage in England, and Arthur blamed despite the fact he had not been a party to the agreement other than to sign it when ordered to do so by his superiors. Being demoted when in the throes of routing the opposition must have been a shattering blow for Arthur. He wrote to Wellesley-Pole on 26th August regarding his senior officers:

These people are really more stupid and incapable than any I have met with; & if things go on in this disgraceful manner I must quit them.

Naturally in the depths of such despair, Arthur was not to be trifled with. Into the firing line came William, whose bravery in the field had been reported in despatches, and whom Arthur had just a few days earlier remarked upon favourably. But with Arthur’s patience exhausted and his heckles up William was to become the fall-guy. This letter from the Raglan MS (dated Sept 6th) holds nothing back – as Arthur tells Wellesley-Pole exactly what he thinks of young William.

He is the most extraordinary person altogether I have ever seen. There is a mixture of steadiness and extreme levity, of sense & folly in his composition such as I have never met with… the nature of our relative situations, & the constant crowd with which I am surrounded prevents all intercourse between us… He is lamentably ignorant and idle… he talks incessantly and I hear of his topics from the others which sometimes do not appear to have been judiciously chosen… I have an opportunity of talking to him seriously of his situation; for he is gone off without Leave, which I must notice… In short I don’t know what to say about him. To educate him would be a desideratum… he will never be on a upon a par with the rest of society till he shall have educated himself

Historians regularly cite the above as a testament to Arthur’s black mood during this period. It is certainly true that Arthur’s anger made him excessively harsh towards his nephew. But given what we know about William’s subsequent behaviour at Wanstead – it is hard to disagree with this assessment.

maryborough

Wellesley-Pole received the news that William was ignorant without comment

What Wellesley-Pole must have made of Arthur’s character assassination of William we shall never know because the subject is not mentioned in subsequent correspondence. But, thanks to surviving archives, we do have the benefit of a right of reply from ‘Wicked’ William himself. We learn that William also wrote a letter home (on 27th August) in which he castigates uncle Arthur’s behaviour. The original has not survived – all we have is the reply from older sister Mary Bagot, which reveals that William actually expected more favourable treatment. To him being a relative transcended rules of rank and order within the army hierarchy. William’s vanity meant he could not grasp how such demands threatened to undermine Arthur’s authority.

My Dearest William – depend upon it, if it gets wind that you have differences with Arthur, you are ruined and undone… You must I seriously think have been drunk when you wrote to me. But I will answer every part of your complaints simply__

In the first place, you say Arthur “treats you distantly and never speaks to you”. I know, and have always heard, that when upon Service, he is notoriously distant with all his officers. Besides this, would a man of common sense be particularly free with his own nephew to disquiet every other person, make you hated, & an object of jealousy, & himself abused for favouring his nephew.

 You next say “he never employs you” – The general opinion here is that you were the person most employed & sent about with most messages in the actions. You say “you gain no credit” – To this I answer: The Times, The Oracle, & Courier have all had various eulogisms in them of you, for your activity and gallant behaviour… Everyone speaks the same language & all write in asking me, & hoping you intend following up the profession, as it is one you appear to shine in. So this is gaining no credit!

My dear William, you must recollect you are just 20. For many of those you are with, not only have a right to take the piss out of you & not only from superiority of years, but from rank, length of service & a thousand other things & can you expect to be employed & a preference given to you above them all. I cannot conceive how the idea of being employed conspicuously ever came into your head… Many work hard for years without gaining the credit you have gained in one month.

My love, your complaints are ungrateful to providence, & to Arthur… Give yourself common pains to gain an insight into the art of the profession you are now in. You began your career with one whose name & character stands unrivalled, & on with whom if you quarrel God help you is all I can say.

Above all this letter shows that William was by now a fully-fledged attention seeker. The mere fortnight that the British army rested following Vimeiro was clearly too dull– for William craved constant excitement and attention. He was obviously unprepared for the many months of inactivity and hardship facing most soldiers over the course of a campaign.

However, it must be said that William has identified traits in Arthur’s character which became the subject of debate and conjecture throughout his military career. This is perhaps best summed up by Arthur’s famous description of his troops as ‘scum of the earth’, which many observers then and since have considered insulting and unfeeling towards the many men who loyally served him & whose bravery was beyond reproach. As historian Christopher Duffy succinctly puts it

Wellington I think had this fundamental coldness in his heart. He would weep when he met casualties, but basically he was a cold-hearted bastard.

To sum up then, we can see that William’s immaturity was the root cause of his spat with Arthur. For all this though – he was unlucky to incur Arthur’s wrath at the very time when Arthur was considering his own future in the army. Had Arthur not been beset with such heavy troubles, this matter may have been resolved.

But such is the story of ‘Wicked’ William that another golden opportunity came to be wasted. Thus by the time Mary’s sensible advice reached William it was too late – he was already dismissed and heading home. To cap it all off  – ‘Wicked’ William’s chance to be mentored by Britain’s greatest general was taken by another rookie aide-de-camp named Fitzroy Somerset (later Lord Raglan) who not only went on to become Wellington’s closest military aide, but also to marry ‘Wicked’ William’s sister Emily.

emily        raglan

William’s Loss? Emily Wellesley-Pole & Wellington’s ‘chosen one’ –  Fitzroy Somerset

 

For more information on the Peninsular War (1808-1814), I would recommend http://peninsularwar200.org/

Rory Muir has recently written a very good biography of Wellington, which I would recommend not least because my own work is footnoted therein

For all things Wellington, and to partake in a tour why not visit Number One London

Finally, if you have enjoyed reading about ‘Wicked’ William acting the fool – please check out this earlier post entitled ‘Wicked’ William’s Hunt

 

 

 

Wellington’s Favourite Niece? You Decide

Mary-Emily-Priscilla by Lawrence 3 Graces

With the sad news that Lord Raglan’s collection is up for auction at Christie’s in London on 22-23 of May, this is an opportune time to explore the runners and riders in the race for recognition as The Duke of Wellington’s favourite niece.

Lot 40 of the Raglan sale (above) contains all three candidates for this special place in the affections of our greatest military general. As the item is likely to fetch upwards of £50,000 there is a distinct possibility that it will leave the UK once the gavel has fallen next week. So if you have a chance to get to King Street prior to auction, I would recommend you seize the moment, and view first hand this wonderful portrait of three women collectively dubbed ‘the three graces’. From left to right we have Mary Bagot, Emily Raglan and Priscilla Burghersh. These ladies more than compensated for the stress and disruption Wellington endured at the hands of their only brother ‘Wicked’ William Long-Wellesley, and for distinct reasons each one has been attributed by differing historians the honour of being Wellington’s favourite niece.

Let’s examine each claim individually

 

Contestant No 1 – Mary Bagot (Age in picture -28)

mary

 

 

Credentials

As Wellesley-Pole’s eldest daughter Mary was old enough to remember her kindly uncle as a lodger at the family home in Hanover Square before he set off for India in 1797. She was a wild child like her brother William, and brought a fair degree of scandal upon the Wellesley family even after her marriage to society hunk Charles ‘Beauty’ Bagot.

 

Link to Wellington

Mary really came into her own after 1816 when she went to Washington when her husband was appointed Ambassador to America. It was here she became close friends with the Caton family whose three wealthy daughters Marianne, Bess, Louisa were intending to visit England and Europe. It was Mary Bagot that directed the Caton sisters to her parent’s house in Savile Row, where Marianne first met Arthur Wellesley and became perhaps the single most important relationship of his life. However, this was one battle that Wellington ended up losing, and the victorious suitor who deprived him of Marianne’s love was none other than Richard, his oldest brother. Wellington never really came to terms with the loss of this great love of his life to a brother he regarded with suspicion and contempt.

When Wellington went to St Petersburg for the funeral of Czar Alexander in 1825 he was guaranteed a great reception not only because of his exploits at Waterloo but also on account of Mary Bagot’s popularity in the Russian court during her husband’s 3 year stint as ambassador to Russia

Championed by

Jehanne Wake, who has written an excellent book on the Caton sisters entitled Sisters of Fortune, identifies Mary as Wellington’s favourite.

Arguments Against

Mary’s husband Charles was very closely allied to George Canning, with whom Wellington had a long history of animosity. This would have made it awkward for Mary to have been the chosen one

Interesting Fact about Mary

When Napoleon returned to Paris in 1814, he spotted Mary at Notre Dame Cathedral and had her carriage moved to the front steps so that she could not leave without acknowledging him.

 

 

 

Contestant No 2 – Priscilla Burghersh (Age in picture 22)

priscilla

 

 

Credentials

Priscilla is widely regarded as Wellington’s favourite niece not least because there is a plenty of correspondence between her and the Duke of Wellington. Though she was only 5 when Uncle Arthur went to India, she vividly remembered that his first port of call upon his return in 1805 was to the Wellesley-Pole house in Blackheath where he insisted that Priscilla was roused from her bed so he could see her.

Priscilla was a very straight-laced woman who firmly believed in decorum at all times.

Link to Wellington

She met and married Wellington’s aide-de-camp Lord Burghersh, who was a talented musician and sensitive man, not cut out for military life. However Burghersh was a brave soldier met his bride having been sent home injured from the Peninsular and was told to visit Wellesley-Pole by Wellington during his convalescence. Once married Priscilla joined her husband travelling with the Allied forces from Germany towards France right up until Napoleon’s defeat and exile in 1814. She kept a journal recoding events of the war which was published by John Murray in 1822.

Priscilla spent many years abroad as her husband became an established diplomat. After her return to England in the late 1820s she spent a lot of time in her uncle’s company, sharing his views on morals and standards in public life. Her uncompromising character and inflexibility drew comparisons with Wellington.

Championed by

Historians such as John Severn and Elizabeth Longford, as well as the curators of Apsley House, which was Wellington’s London home. Priscilla can be found standing in a doorway in the Waterloo Banquet painting in the lobby of Apsley House looking kindly over her uncle as he hosts the veterans’ annual dinner. A very good copy of that iconic print is amongst the lots for sale this week, together with some paintings by Priscilla, who was a very competent artist in her own right.

Arguments Against

It is hard to believe that Wellington could confide in Priscilla considering her uncompromising principles

Interesting Fact about Priscilla

When Napoleon escaped from Elba and made his return to France he travelled under the false name of ‘Lord Burghersh,’ which if nothing else proves that the Emperor had a great sense of humour

 

Contestant No 3 – Emily Raglan (Age in picture – 21)

emily

 

Credentials

Youngest of the Wellesley-Pole sisters, Emily was present at Brussels, about to give birth, on the day of the Battle of Waterloo. She married Wellington’s most famous aide-de-camp Fitzroy Somerset in 1814 having travelled to Paris with her father to visit her victorious uncle Arthur following Napoleon’s defeat and exile. Whilst there she met and fell in love with Fitzroy Somerset, though she was besieged with suitors for several years before and right up to the day of her marriage.

Link to Wellington

As we all know, Fitzroy Somerset (or Lord Raglan as he became) lost his arm at the Battle of Waterloo. As Wellington’s closest military confidante and now family-member, Raglan continued to enjoy a close relationship with the Duke long after they left the arena of warfare. Naturally Wellington was very familiar with his niece whom he saw regularly for a great many years

Championed by

John Sweetman, who has written the definitive biography of Lord Raglan, emphasises the special relationship between the Duke and Emily as wife to his closest companion. Also the very knowledgeable staff at Christie’s in King Street, who have prepared a truly sumptuous auction guide, are very much in favour of Emily’s claim.

Arguments Against

Emily was a bit of a hypochondriac and there is plenty of evidence to suggest she could be a real pain in the butt at times moaning about various ailments. Her own husband found her a little wearing for this reason. This might explain why Emily burned all the Raglan private correspondence after her husband’s tragic death in the Crimea in 1855

Interesting Fact about Emily

Emily was pestered for a time by Charles Arbuthnot, who was dazzled by her renowned beauty. Then, when she went to Paris in 1814 a young prince became besotted and followed her round like a love-sick puppy. The Wellesley-Poles took pity on him because they knew that Emily had fallen for Fitzroy Somerset. So they brought him back to England and Emily introduced this handsome admirer named Leopold of Saxe-Coburg to her good friend Princess Charlotte. But for Charlotte’s tragic death, Emily could have been the maker of a new royal dynasty, though Leopold did go on to become King of Belgium, which for some must be considered a booby prize.

 

 

Verdict

It’s a close one to call especially as both Mary Bagot and Emily Raglan destroyed their private correspondence, but on balance I would have to opt for Priscilla as there seems to be a definite bond between herself and Wellington in the pages of their surviving published letters, that seems to indicate a mutual love and understanding. Of course you must decide for yourselves, as this 200-year old debate will continue to divide opinion!

I hope this blog has shed some light on some very interesting WOMEN in the Wellesley family, each of whom I am sure you will agree are worthy of greater attention.

Even if they don’t receive any recognition on their own right, I hope at least we can continue to appreciate their beauty via Lawrence’s work,  if a white-knight comes forward to buy this fascinating drawing for the nation

 

For more information on the dispersal of Lord Raglan’s collection visit http://www.raglanrescue.co.uk/

Lady Westmoreland’s Rebuke

 

If such behaviour were to be countenanced by Lady Westmoreland it would become a disgrace to the English Nation…

 

The following letter transcribed in full from the Sneyd family papers at Keele University alludes to a social faux pas perpetrated by Ralph Sneyd when visiting Rome in the winter of 1821. Ralph seems to have misunderstood the sphere of social and domestic pleasure, and that he needed to follow strict rules of engagement when dealing with elite ladies. His protagonist, Lady Westmoreland outranks him in age, wealth and status. She certainly displays very fixed opinions about the rules of gossip-mongering.

But far from being an impressionable youth Sneyd was in fact 28 years old, so perhaps he ought to have known better than to rile such a high-ranked hostess. He appears to have been warned twice already before the redoubtable Lady Westmoreland finally excludes him from her concert party, sending this letter explaining her reasons.  Yet Lady Jane Westmoreland was not your archetypal crusty old matriarch, and was actually a staggeringly attractive 32 year old blonde with a far-from spotless reputation of her own. This letter of censure reveals that Lady Westmoreland had not in fact followed her own rules of confidentiality and that her animosity to Mr Sneyd arose at least in part because she herself had been upbraided by Lord Kinnaird for repeating the allegations Sneyd made against the un-named Lady. I think, however, that Sneyd’s real crime was his failure to appreciate the character of Lady Westmoreland – for he must have known that her presence in Rome was entirely on account of social exclusion and gossip resulting in her effective exile from London society

jane huck-saunders

Lady Westmoreland (1783-1857)

Versus

NPG D20641; Ralph Sneyd by Frederick Christian Lewis Sr, after  George Richmond

Ralph Sneyd (1793-1870)

                                                                       

Born Jane-Huck Saunders in 1783, at the age of 17 she became second wife to awkward and cantankerous 41-year-old John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmoreland.  She bore him three children but her wealth and lack of inhibition provided Lady Westmoreland opportunities to conduct a series of secret liaisons with men of her own age. Around 1810 Lady Westmoreland caused a sensation by leaving her marital home (including children and 5 additional stepchildren) and setting up her own establishment in London. Leaving her children behind may seem callous in today’s terms, but Lady Westmoreland would have had no legal right to take them and could not have quit the household any other way. In fact the legality of her actions was so questionable that her husband commenced action to have her committed (to a sanatorium) on the basis of ‘irresponsible conduct’. The truth was that Lady Westmoreland’s new home served as a magnet for those on the edge of society – for example Lord Byron who first saw Caroline Lamb in her house,  – and she was becoming an embarrassment. Damned by public opinion Lady Westmoreland was compelled to go abroad in 1814, establishing herself in Rome and living in style. From her magnificent residence she dominated the social scene and became a  renowned patron of the arts. One of her protégés was John Severn who extricated himself from her romantic overtures in 1821 by suggesting she take up with his friend Frederick Catherwood. She replied: “My dear Mr Severn, I do not know this young man , but I would take anyone of your commending, because I feel you understand me.” Consequently Catherwood became her lover and moved into her palace for several months until the relationship petered out. Lady Westmoreland’s position at the head of Rome’s ex-pat community endured because of her wealth and ability to control the social calendar. She had well-deserved reputation as a brilliant conversationalist, generous when it suited her, yet also unstable and domineering in character. 

Perhaps Lady Westmoreland’s real objection to Sneyd was his decision to judge the tantalisingly un-named Lady without holding a shred of evidence to back up his story. In doing so he struck at the heart of Lady Westmoreland’s own exclusion from London society, something that was bound to raise her heckles. Had Sneyd reflected upon the reputation of Lady Westmoreland before he opened his mouth, he might have avoided her wrath and her subsequently brutal put-down of his own character and status.

This letter provides a marvellous insight into Lady Westmoreland’s views on this important facet of aristocratic social etiquette, with a few choice insults thrown in to boot. Please notice that Lady Westmoreland refers to herself in the third-person throughout, probably to emphasise the gulf in class between her and Sneyd.

 

Letter Reference 20/235 – Sneyd MS, Keele University Libary

 [Marked in pencil:  ‘Jane, 2nd wife of 10th Earl of Westmoreland’]

Lady Westmoreland having been asked by several persons why she did not ask Mr Sneyd to her concert thinks it right to acquaint Mr Sneyd that the following is the explanation she has given of her reasons

About 5 weeks ago Lady Westmoreland met Mr Sneyd at dinner at Lady Sandwich’s & suffering every man she saw in Lady Sandwich’s house to be a person of gentlemanly honour, she conversed with Mr Sneyd respecting a Lady latterly arrived at Rome & whose name has been the subject of discussion in several houses where Mr Sneyd has obtained admittance. Mr Sneyd gave it to Lady Westmoreland confidentially as his opinions that the stories as circulated in London concerning the Lady were of so unpleasant a nature & had obtained so much credit in public opinion, that it would be improper and impossible to cause that Lady to be received in general society.

Lady Westmoreland answered Mr Sneyd that (being in ignorance herself upon the subject) if she should find that to be the general sentiment of the English Ladies & Gentlemen at Rome she should not make any effort to persuade those who entertained that opinion to act inconsistently with it, but she stated also to Mr Sneyd that it would make no difference in her own conduct regarding the Lady who had been introduced to her in terms of such respectful recommendation, as would decide her at once to give the protection that was requested. & the more so, if that protection became manifestly necessary from the general sentiment of Rome being unfavourable to the Lady. – Lady Westmoreland explained that she intended to invite the Lady in question to her house with such of her friends as would not object to meet her. & Lady Westmoreland told Mr Sneyd that she thought all the single gentlemen at Rome ought to offer their respects & protection, to this their countrywoman, a Lady, of highest rank, defenceless, in a foreign land – most especially if they thought it their duty to recommend an opposite line of conduct to those Ladies who might be influenced by their testimony.

As the answers of Mr Sneyd were extremely positive & decided regarding the reputation of the Lady, the questions of Lady Westmoreland were few.

It happened however that after the lapse of a fortnight or three weeks, various circumstances came to the knowledge and observation of Lady Westmoreland, that caused her to remark that calumnies so readily uttered seemed sanctioned by very little proof & that indeed the very existence of some of them, was a presumptive disproof of others.

Lady Westmoreland therefore a second time (at Lady Bute’s) addressed herself to Mr Sneyd & resumed her enquiries more particularly. She asked him if he had ever had any means of authenticating the charges advanced.

Mr Sneyd distinctly answered that he knew nothing whatever but the gossiping stories tattled in the world of the foundation of which or the real circumstances, he had not the slightest knowledge or information.

Lady Westmoreland asked Mr Sneyd if he knew any ill opinion to be expressed of this Lady by the direct assertion of any man of honourable name or if any man of honourable name did, or ever had given his authority to any charge or distinct censure brought against her by others.

Mr Sneyd again distinctly replied that there was the total absence of any such information, that he was possessed of nothing but stories, which he supposed were believed, but which he had never traced to any honourable or credible authority & which he had only alluded to in his conversation with Lady Westmoreland from believing himself to be communicating in “strict honour and confidence”.

Lady Westmoreland answered Mr Sneyd that she also had considered the conversation to be one of strict honour and confidence & therefore she had made a point of not mentioning Mr Sneyd’s name.

(In truth Lord Kinnaird had called upon Lady Westmoreland to give up the names of the persons who slandered the honour of the Lady concerned & Lady Westmoreland informed Lord Kinnaird that without first asking their permission she did not feel at liberty so to do).

Lady Westmoreland stated to Mr Sneyd at this second conversation, that having herself received the same answers, of their entire ignorance of the truth, from all the persons who had been the loudest in defaming the Lady in question, she was of opinion that there was not cause brought forward to justify hostile conduct against the Lady nor ground sufficient to give implicit faith to the assertions that had been so positively and publicly made to her discredit. Lady Westmoreland therefore repeated more strongly than before, & as a request from herself that Mr Sneyd should in the manly character assist Lady Westmoreland in giving that protection which it became more and more the duty of Lady Westmoreland not to withdraw, & of her countrymen to assist her in according since the accusations increased in virulence against the Lady in proportion as they were acted upon, while the proofs receded upon enquiry and investigation.

Mr Sneyd answered Lady Westmoreland with the appearance of embarrassment & alarm that he wished to decline what she proposed to him as it was not an acquaintance he should have wished to form under the circumstances, & in the present ones, he feared the Lady might require some service such as request him to introduce her to some other person etc. Lady Westmoreland abruptly terminated the subject saying that “Mr Sneyd must judge for himself”, & thinking that any gentleman who when asked for protection to a woman, expresses fear, whatever may be the nature of his apprehensions, can be an acquaintance, the loss of which, is no disadvantage to the Lady.

It is with pain and surprise, & not without indignation that Lady Westmoreland has since heard, that during all these weeks that Mr Sneyd has been sheltering himself under her honour & decency, he has been permitting his tongue the greatest licence & levity in the public mention of the Lady whose name he attacks, & in promulgating with the most persuasive intention all the evil impressions that such statements are calculated to convey.

Lady Westmoreland considers that she should become the accomplice herself in such proceedings if she were to allow them her sanction.

Such behaviour is not only to defame, but to belie a Lady’s honour. For he who repeats with the authority of truth scandalous accusations that he does not positively know to be true, debases what he does positively know may be false. & when the object and result of that is to expose to infamy, contempt and insult, a woman of his own Nation, alone, and undefended in a foreign country, it is the very worst action by which a man can degrade his own character.

Lady Westmoreland has been told by several persons that she is making Mr Sneyd of too much consequence & acting with too much condescension in deigning to communicate with him at all. But Lady Westmoreland is not of this opinion. On the contrary it is one of her maxims in life by which she has constantly regulated her actions, to consider the honour of every individual as of equal value & of the same value as each individual ought to consider it himself & to the most inconsiderable person in society Lady Westmoreland would give the same opportunity of justification, & would become herself his defender if she had accused him unjustly, with the same alacrity that she would do to the first in station and honour.

Lady Westmoreland knows scarcely anything of Mr Sneyd, and not enough to have any prejudice either in his favour or against him. She does not think she has ever heard him mentioned since about 6 or 7 years ago, when she recollects having a cursory view of a copy of verses of his performance the subject of which she did not comprehend, nor did the verses themselves invite a very attentive perusal as she remembers they gave her but a mediocre idea of the natural talents of the author in a composition which seemed to convey a desperation to lampoon Lord and Lady Burghersh.  Neither did Lady Westmoreland appreciate much more highly the judgement of the person who displayed a very blunt attempt to ridicule the Lord and Lady of a house in which Mr Sneyd had probably been received with Lord Burghersh’s accustomed hospitality.

As however Lord and Lady Burghersh could at Florence have crushed Mr Sneyd pleasantly with a glance, Lady Westmoreland would have conceded from good nature what she in truth suppressed from forgetfulness. For she does not recollect that from that hour to this the subject has ever recurred to her recollection nor does she think it ever would have done so if she had not now heard that Mr Sneyd has again come forth in the character of a public jester; & that he is going about from house to house talking loosely with levity upon those slanders which he tells Lady Westmoreland he only alludes to in “strict honour & confidence”, thus exposing the name of a Lady while he avails himself of the integrity of persons of honour, to serve his own.

Lady Westmoreland is sorry that Mr Sneyd should misuse a capacity that might tend to better objects than employments so degrading – Lady Westmoreland has had many years’ experience of the world herself and has acquired in consequence great contempt for all its empty contrivances. In that long experience too she has constantly observed that the jester at length becomes the joker, & those who introduce themselves into the society of persons of higher rank than themselves by deigning to amuse the community at the expense of others, generally end by diverting it at their own.

It is too great condescension to men of distinction by the mention of high sounding names & it is a much better calculation in the end to act so as to command respect then to confine the brain to the humble occupation of seeking to awaken laughter.

Lady Westmoreland is very sorry that Mr Sneyd in having communicated with her confidentially upon this subject & then having acted entirely contrary to the spirit of honourable communication, has compelled Lady Westmoreland to manifest her sense of his conduct.

In the present state of the case it is only disgraceful to one young man who may mend his manners by experience. But if such behaviour were to be countenanced by Lady Westmoreland it would become a disgrace to the English Nation.

As Lady Westmoreland considers the conduct of Mr Sneyd to be a failure in gentlemanly honour she declines any immediate conversation with him herself. But if Mr Sneyd has any statement to make in intimation of the accusation which Lady Westmoreland brings against him in this letter, she should listen to it with the kindest attention through the medium of any of the respectable married men at Rome if there should be any one of them who after reading this letter of Lady Westmoreland, will charge himself with any excuse for the conduct of Mr Sneyd

Palazzo [Rockingham], Monday 24th December 1821

 

Footnote

Sneyd’s first cousin by marriage was Sir Charles Bagot whose wife Mary was the sister of Priscilla, Lady Burghersh – whose husband was English Minister at Florence and Lady Westmoreland’s stepson, John Fane. This explains why she alludes to her annoyance at Sneyd poking fun at the hospitality of the Burghersh family via his ‘mediocre verses’.

 

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