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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency (I include those who were born before 1811 and who died after 1795), today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Anthony Ashley-Cooper 7th Earl of Shaftesbury
28 April 1801 – 1 October 1885

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Anthony Ashley-Cooper

Anthony Ashley-Cooper 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, Lord Ashley, as he was styled until his father’s death in 1851, was educated at Manor House school in Chiswick (1812–1813), Harrow School (1813–1816) and Christ Church, Oxford, where he gained first class honours in classics in 1822, took his MA in 1832 and was appointed DCL in 1841.

Ashley’s early family life was loveless, a circumstance common among the British upper classes, and resembled in that respect the fictional childhood of Esther Summerson vividly narrated in the early chapters of Charles Dickens’s novel Bleak House. G.F.A Best in his biography Shaftesbury writes that: “Ashley grew up without any experience of parental love. He saw little of his parents, and when duty or necessity compelled them to take notice of him they were formal and frightening.”

This difficult childhood was softened by the affection he received from his housekeeper Maria Millis, and his sisters. Millis provided for Ashley a model of Christian love that would form the basis for much of his later social activism and philanthropic work, as Best explains: “What did touch him was the reality, and the homely practicality, of the love which her Christianity made her feel towards the unhappy child. She told him bible stories, she taught him a prayer.” Despite this powerful reprieve, school became another source of misery for the young Ashley, whose education at Manor House from 1808 to 1813 introduced a “more disgusting range of horrors”. Shaftesbury himself shuddered to recall those years, “The place was bad, wicked, filthy; and the treatment was starvation and cruelty.”

Ashley was elected as the Tory Member of Parliament for Woodstock (a pocket borough controlled by the Duke of Marlborough) in June 1826 and was a strong supporter of the Duke of Wellington. After George Canning replaced Lord Liverpool as Prime Minister, he offered Ashley a place in the new government, despite Ashley having been in the Commons for only five months. Ashley politely declined, writing in his diary that he believed that serving under Canning would be a betrayal of his allegiance to the Duke of Wellington and that he was not qualified for office. Before he had completed one year in the Commons, he had been appointed to three parliamentary committees and he received his fourth such appointment in June 1827, when he was appointed to the Select Committee On Pauper Lunatics in the County of Middlesex and on Lunatic Asylums.

In Lord Shaftesbury’s lifetime 1827, when Ashley was appointed to the Select Committee On Pauper Lunatics in the County of Middlesex and on Lunatic Asylums, the majority of lunatics in London were kept in madhouses owned by Dr Warburton. The Committee examined many witnesses concerning one of his madhouses in Bethnal Green, called the White House. Ashley visited this on the Committee’s behalf. The patients were chained up, slept naked on straw, and went to toilet in their beds. They were left chained from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning when they were cleared of the accumulated excrement. They were then washed down in freezing cold water and one towel was allotted to 160 people, with no soap. It was overcrowded and the meat provided was “that nasty thick hard muscle a dog could not eat”. The White House had been described as “a mere place for dying” rather than curing the insane and when the Committee asked Dr MacMichael whether he believed that “in the lunatic asylums in the neighbourhood of London any curative process is going on with regard to pauper patients”, he replied: “None at all”.

The Committee recommended that “legislative measures of a remedial character should be introduced at the earliest period at the next session”, and the establishment of a Board of Commissioners appointed by the Home Secretary possessing extensive powers of licensing, inspection and control. When in February 1828 Robert Gordon, Liberal MP for Cricklade, introduced a bill to put these recommendations into law, Ashley seconded this and delivered his maiden speech in support of the Bill. He wrote in his diary: “So, by God’s blessing, my first effort has been for the advance of human happiness. May I improve hourly! Fright almost deprived me of recollection but again thank Heaven, I did not sit down quite a presumptuous idiot”. Ashley was also involved in framing the County Lunatic Asylums (England) Act 1828 and the Madhouses Act 1828. Through these Acts fifteen commissioners were appointed for the London area and given extensive powers of licensing and inspection, one of the commissioners being Ashley.

In July 1845 Ashley sponsored two Lunacy Acts, ‘For the Regulation of lunatic Asylums’ and ‘For the better Care and Treatment of Lunatics in England and Wales’. They originated in the Report of the Commissioners in Lunacy which he had commended to Parliament the year before. These Acts consolidated and amended previous lunacy laws, providing better record keeping and more strict certification regulations to ensure patients against unwarranted detention. They also ordered, instead of merely permitting, the construction of country lunatic asylums with and establishing an ongoing Lunacy Commission with Ashley as its chairman. In support of these measures, Ashley gave a speech in which he claimed that although since 1828 there had been an improvement, more still needed to be done. He cited the case of a Welsh lunatic girl, Mary Jones, who had for more than a decade been locked in a tiny loft with one boarded-up window with little air and no light. The room was extremely filthy and was filled with an intolerable smell. She could only squat in a bent position in the room and this had caused her to become deformed.

In early 1858 a Select Committee was appointed over concerns that sane persons were detained in lunatic asylums. Lord Shaftesbury (as Ashley had become upon his father’s death in 1851) was the chief witness and opposed the suggestion that the certification of insanity be made more difficult and that early treatment of insanity was essential if there was to be any prospect of a cure. He claimed that only one or two people in his time dealing with lunacy had been detained in an asylum without sufficient grounds and that commissioners should be granted more not fewer powers. The Committee’s Report endorsed all of Shaftesbury’s recommendations except for one: that a magistrate’s signature on a certificate of lunacy be made compulsory. This was not put into law chiefly due to Shaftesbury’s opposition to it. The Report also agreed with Shaftesbury that unwarranted detentions were “extremely rare”.

In July 1877 Shaftesbury gave evidence before the Select Committee on the Lunacy Laws, which had been appointed in February over concerns that it was too easy for sane persons to be detained in asylums. Shaftesbury feared that because of his advanced age he would be taken over by forgetfulness whilst given evidence and was greatly stressed in the months leading up to his giving evidence: “Shall fifty years of toil, anxiety and prayer, crowned by marvellous and unlooked-for success, bring me in the end only sorrow and disgrace?” When “the hour of trial” arrived Shaftesbury defended the Lunacy Commission and claimed he was now the only person alive who could speak with personal knowledge of the state of care of lunatics before the Lunacy Commission was established in 1828. It had been “a state of things such as would pass all belief”. In the Committee’s Report, the members of the Committee agreed with Shaftesbury’s evidence on all points.

In 1884 the husband of Mrs Georgina Weldon tried to have her detained in a lunatic asylum because she believed that her pug dog had a soul and that the spirit of her dead mother had entered into her pet rabbit. She commenced legal action against Shaftesbury and other lunacy commissioners although they failed. In May Shaftesbury spoke in the Lords against a motion declaring the lunacy laws unsatisfactory but the motion passed Parliament. The Lord Chancellor Selborne supported a Lunacy Law Amendment Bill and Shaftesbury wanted to resign from the Lunacy Commission as he believed he was honour bound not to oppose a Bill supported by the Lord Chancellor. However Selborne implored him not to resign so Shaftesbury refrained. However, when the Bill was introduced and it contained the provision which made it compulsory for a certificate of lunacy to be signed by a magistrate or a judge, he resigned. The government fell, however, and the Bill was withdrawn and Shaftesbury resumed his chairmanship of the Lunacy Commission.

Shaftesbury’s work in improving the care of the insane remains one of his most important, though less well known, of his achievements. He wrote: “Beyond the circle of my own Commissioners and the lunatics that I visit, not a soul, in great or small life, not even my associates in my works of philanthropy, has any notion of the years of toil and care that, under God, I have bestowed on this melancholy and awful question”.

In March 1833 Ashley introduced the Ten Hours Act 1833 into the Commons, which provided that children working in the cotton and woollen industries must be aged nine or above; no person under the age of eighteen was to work more than ten hours a day or eight hours on a Saturday; and no one under twenty-five was to work nights. However the Whig government, by a majority of 145, amended this to substitute “thirteen” in place of “eighteen” and the Act as it passed ensured that no child under thirteen worked more than nine hours, insisted they should go to school, and appointed inspectors to enforce the law.

In June 1836 another Ten Hours act was introduced into the Commons and although Ashley considered this Bill ill-timed, he supported it. In July one member of the Lancashire committees set up to support the Bill wrote that: “If there was one man in England more devoted to the interests of the factory people than another, it was Lord Ashley. They might always rely on him as a ready, steadfast and willing friend”. In July 1837 he accused the government of ignoring the breaches of the 1833 Act and moved the resolution that the House regretted the regulation of the working hours of children had. been found to be unsatisfactory. It was lost by fifteen votes.

The text of A Narrative of the Experience and Sufferings of William Dodd a Factory Cripple was sent to Lord Astley and with his support was published in 1840. Astley employed William Dodd at 45 shillings a week and he wrote “The Factory System: Illustrated” to describe the conditions of working children in textile manufacture. This was published in 1842. These books were attacked by John Bright in parliament who said that he had evidence that the books described Dodd’s mistreatment but were in fact driven by Dodd’s ingratitude as a disgruntled employee. Ashley sacked Dodd who emigrated to America.

In 1842 Ashley wrote twice to the Prime Minister, Robert Peel, to urge the government to support a new Factory Act. Peel wrote in reply that he would not support one and Ashley wrote to the Short Time Committees of Chesire, Lancashire and Yorkshire who desired a Ten Hours Act:
Though painfully disappointed, I am not disheartened, nor am I at a loss either what course to take, or what advice to give. I shall persevere unto my last hour, and so must you; we must exhaust every legitimate means that the Constitution afford, in petitions to Parliament, in public meetings, and in friendly conferences with your employers; but you must infringe no law, and offend no proprieties; we must all work together as sensible men, who will one day give an account of their motives and actions; if this course is approved, no consideration shall detach me from your cause; if not, you must elect another advocate. I know that, in resolving on this step, I exclude myself altogether from the tenure of office; I rejoice in the sacrifice, happy to devote the remainder of my days, be they many or be they few, as God in His wisdom shall determine, to an effort, however laborious, to ameliorate your moral and social condition.

In March 1844 Ashley moved an amendment to a Factory Bill limiting the working hours of adolescents to ten hours after Sir James Graham had introduced a Bill aiming to limit their working hours to twelve hours. Ashley’s amendment was passed by eight votes, the first time the Commons had approved of the Ten Hour principle. However, in a later vote his amendment was defeated by seven votes and the Bill was withdrawn. Later that month Graham introduced another Bill which again would limit the employment of adolescents to twelve hours. Ashley supported this Bill except that he wanted ten hours not twelve as the limit. In May he moved an amendment to limit the hours worked to ten hours but this was lost by 138 votes.

In 1846, whilst he was out of Parliament, Ashley strongly supported John Fielden’s Ten Hours Bill, which was lost by ten votes. In January 1847 Fielden reintroduced his Bill and it finally passed through Parliament to become the Ten Hours Act.

Ashley introduced the Mines and Collieries Act 1842 in Parliament to outlaw the employment of women and children underground in coal mines. He made a speech in support of the Act and the Prince Consort wrote to him afterwards, sending him the “best wishes for your total success”. At the end of his speech, his opponent on the Ten Hours issue, Cobden, walked over to Ashley and said: “You know how opposed I have been to your views; but I don’t think I have ever been put into such a frame of mind in the whole course of my life as I have been by your speech”.

Ashley was a strong supporter of prohibiting the employment of boys as chimney sweeps. Many climbing boys were illegitimate who had been sold by their parents. They suffered from scorched and lacerated skin, their eyes and throats filled with soot, with the danger of suffocation and their occupational disease—cancer of the scrotum. In 1840 a Bill was introduced into the Commons outlawing the employment of boys as chimney sweeps, and strongly supported by Ashley. Despite being enforced in London, elsewhere the Act did not stop the employment of child chimney sweeps and this led to the foundation of the Climbing-Boys’ Society with Ashley as its chairman. In 1851, 1853 and 1855 Shaftesbury introduced Bills into Parliament to deal with the ongoing use of boy chimney sweeps but these were all defeated. He succeeded in passing the Chimney Sweepers Regulation Act 1864 but like its predecessors it remained ineffectual. Shaftesbury finally persuaded Parliament to pass the Chimney Sweepers Act 1875 which ensured the annual licensing of chimney sweeps and the enforcement of the law by the police. This finally eradicated the employment of boys as chimney sweeps.

After Shaftesbury discovered that a boy chimney sweep was living behind his house in Brock Street, London, he rescued the child and sent him to “the Union School at Norwood Hill, where, under God’s blessing and special merciful grace, he will be trained in the knowledge and love and faith of our common Saviour”.

In 1844 Ashley became president of the Ragged School Union that promoted ragged schools. These schools were for poor children and sprang up from volunteers. Ashley wrote that “If the Ragged School system were to fail I should not die in the course of nature, I should die of a broken heart”.

Shaftesbury was a leading figure within 19th-century evangelical Anglicanism. Shaftesbury was President of the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) from 1851 until his death in 1885. He wrote, of the Bible Society, “Of all Societies this is nearest to my heart… Bible Society has always been a watchword in our house.” He was also president of the Evangelical Alliance for some time.

Shaftesbury was also a student of Edward Bickersteth and together they became prominent advocates of Christian Zionism in Britain. Shaftesbury was an early proponent of the Restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land, providing the first proposal by a major politician to resettle Jews in Palestine. The conquest of Greater Syria in 1831 by Muhammad Ali of Egypt changed the conditions under which European power politics operated in the Near East. As a consequence of that shift, Shaftesbury was able to help persuade Foreign Minister Palmerston to send a British consul to Jerusalem in 1838. A committed Christian and a loyal Englishman, Shaftesbury argued for a Jewish return because of what he saw as the political and economic advantages to England and because he believed that it was God’s will. In January 1839, Shaftesbury published an article in the Quarterly Review, which although initially commenting on the 1838 Letters on Egypt, Edom and the Holy Land (1838) by Lord Lindsay, provided the first proposal by a major politician to resettle Jews in Palestine:

The soil and climate of Palestine are singularly adapted to the growth of produce required for the exigencies of Great Britain; the finest cotton may be obtained in almost unlimited abundance; silk and madder are the staple of the country, and olive oil is now, as it ever was, the very fatness of the land. Capital and skill are alone required: the presence of a British officer, and the increased security of property which his presence will confer, may invite them from these islands to the cultivation of Palestine; and the Jews’, who will betake themselves to agriculture in no other land, having found, in the English consul, a mediator between their people and the Pacha, will probably return in yet greater numbers, and become once more the husbandmen of Judaea and Galilee.

The lead-up to the Crimean War (1854), like the military expansionism of Muhammad Ali two decades earlier, signalled an opening for realignments in the Near East. In July 1853, Shaftesbury wrote to Prime Minister Aberdeen that Greater Syria was “a country without a nation” in need of “a nation without a country… Is there such a thing? To be sure there is, the ancient and rightful lords of the soil, the Jews!” In his diary that year he wrote “these vast and fertile regions will soon be without a ruler, without a known and acknowledged power to claim dominion. The territory must be assigned to some one or other… There is a country without a nation; and God now in his wisdom and mercy, directs us to a nation without a country.” This is commonly cited as an early use of the phrase, “A land without a people for a people without a land” by which Shaftesbury was echoing another British proponent of the restoration of the Jews to Israel, (Dr Alexander Keith.)

Shaftesbury served as the first president of the Society for the Suppression of the Opium Trade – a lobbying group opposed to the Anglo-Asian opium trade. The Society was formed by Quaker businessmen in 1874, and Shaftesbury was president from 1880 until his death. The Society’s efforts eventually led to the creation of the investigative Royal Commission on Opium.

The Shaftesbury Memorial in Piccadilly Circus, London, erected in 1893, was designed to commemorate his philanthropic works. The Memorial is crowned by Alfred Gilbert’s aluminium statue of Anteros as a nude, butterfly-winged archer. This is officially titled The Angel of Christian Charity, but has become popularly, if mistakenly, known as Eros. It appears on the masthead of the Evening Standard.

Lord Shaftesbury is honoured together with William Wilberforce on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church on 30 July. Lord Shaftesbury was a member of the Canterbury Association, as were two of Wilberforce’s sons, Samuel and Robert. Lord Ashley joined on 27 March 1848.

Lord Shaftesbury, then Lord Ashley, married Lady Emily Caroline Catherine Frances Cowper (died 15 October 1872), daughter of Peter Cowper, 5th Earl Cowper and Emily Lamb, Countess Cowper; Emily is likely in fact to have been the natural daughter of Lord Palmerston (later her official stepfather), on 10 June 1830. This marriage, which proved a happy and fruitful one, produced ten children, as cited in “The Seventh Earl” by Grace Irwin. It also provided invaluable political connections for Ashley; his wife’s maternal uncle was Lord Melbourne and her stepfather (and supposed biological father) Lord Palmerston, both Prime Ministers.

The children, who mostly suffered various degrees of ill-health, were:

  1. Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 8th Earl of Shaftesbury (27 June 1831 – 13 April 1886), ancestor of all subsequent earls. He proved to be a disappointing heir apparent, constantly running up debts with his extravagant wife Harriet, born Lady Harriet Chichester.
  2. Hon. (Anthony) Francis Henry Ashley-Cooper, second son (b. 13 March 1833 – 13 May 1849
  3. Hon. (Anthony) Maurice William Ashley-Cooper, third son (22 July 1835 – 19 August 1855), died aged 20, after several years of illness.
  4. Rt. Hon. Evelyn Melbourne Ashley (24 July 1836 – 15 November 1907), married 1stly 28 July 1866 Sybella Charlotte Farquhar (ca. 1846 – 31 August 1886), daughter of Sir Walter Rockcliffe Farquhar, 3rd Bt. by his wife Lady Mary Octavia Somerset, a daughter of the Duke of Beaufort and had one son Wilfred William Ashley, and one daughter. His granddaughter was Hon. Edwina Ashley, later Lady Mountbatten (1901–1960), whose two daughters Patricia, Countess Mountbatten of Burma (b. 1924) and Lady Pamela Hicks (b. 1929) are still living as of 2013. Evelyn Ashley left several other descendants via his daughter and Edwina’s younger sister. Evelyn Ashley married 2ndly 30 June 1891 Lady Alice Elizabeth Cole (4 February 1853 – 25 August 1931), daughter of William Willoughby Cole, 3rd Earl of Enniskillen by his 1st wife Jane Casamajor, no issue. The Rt Hon Evelyn Melbourne Ashley died 15 November 1907.
  5. Lady Victoria Elizabeth Ashley, later Lady Templemore (23 September 1837 – 15 February 1927), married 8 January 1873 (aged 35) St George’s, Hanover Square, London Harry Chichester, 2nd Baron Templemore (4 June 1821 – 10 June 1906), son of Arthur Chichester, 1st Baron Templemore and Lady Augusta Paget, and had issue.
  6. Hon (Anthony) Lionel George Ashley-Cooper (b. 7 September 1838 – 1914). He md 12 December 1868 Frances Elizabeth Leigh “Fanny (d. 12 August 1875), daughter of Capel Hanbury Leigh; apparently had no issue.
  7. Lady Mary Charlotte Ashley-Cooper, second daughter (25 July 1842 – 3 September 1861.
  8. Lady Constance Emily Ashley-Cooper, third daughter, or “Conty” (29 November 1845 – 16 December 1872 or 1871 of lung disease)
  9. Lady Edith Florence Ashley-Cooper, fourth daughter (1 February 1847 – 25 November 1913)
  10. Hon. (Anthony) Cecil Ashley-Cooper, sixth son and tenth and youngest child (8 August 1849 – 23 September 1932); apparently died unmarried.
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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency (I include those who were born before 1811 and who died after 1795), today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Sir Charles Wetherell
1770 – 17 August 1846

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Charles Wetherell

Sir Charles Wetherell was born in Oxford, the third son of Reverend Nathan Wetherell, of Durham, Master of the University College and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford. His mother was Richarda Croke (1743?-1812), sister of Sir Alexander Croke, of Studley Priory, Oxfordshire.

Wetherell was Member of Parliament for a considerable period, representing Rye from 1812 to 1813, Shaftesbury from 1813 to 1818, Oxford from 1820 to 1826. He was elected MP for Hastings in 1826 but had to stand down when appointed Attorney-General. He represented Plympton Erle from December 1826 to 1830 and Boroughbridge from 1830 to 1832.

He was Solicitor-General between 1824 and 1826 and Attorney General between 20 September 1826 and 27 April 1827 and again between 19 February 1828 and 29 June 1829. In May 1829, Wetherell made a violent speech in opposition to Catholic Emancipation, and was dismissed by the Duke of Wellington. He was Recorder of Bristol during the riots of 1831. From 1835 up to his death in 1846 he was Chancellor of Durham.

Wetherell was twice married, first, in 1826, with his cousin Jane-Sarah-Elizabeth Croke (1804–1831). They had a son, Charles, who died in infancy. In 1838 he married Harriet-Elizabeth, daughter of Colonel Warneford.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency (I include those who were born before 1811 and who died after 1795), today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Richard Fletcher
1768 – 31 August 1813

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Richard Fletcher

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Richard Fletcher’s exact date of birth is obscure. It is known however that the year was 1768 and his father was a clergyman. On 27 November 1796, at Plymouth, he married Elizabeth Mudge the daughter of a doctor. Fletcher and his wife went on to have five children together; two sons and three daughters. Though Fletcher was buried near to where he was killed at San Sebastián, a monument to his memory, purchased by the Royal Engineers, stands at the western side of the north aisle in Westminster Abbey, London.

Richard Fletcher enrolled as a cadet in the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich on 7 October 1782. He began his career in the Royal Artillery where he became a second-lieutenant on 9 July 1788, before joining the Royal Engineers on 29 June 1790. Fletcher was promoted to lieutenant on 16 January 1793 and when France declared war on Britain, later that year, he was sent to serve in the West Indies.

While in the West Indies, Fletcher played an active role in the successful attacks on the French colonies of Martinique, Gaudeloupe and St Lucia, which occurred between February and April 1794. It was during the capture of St Lucia he received a gunshot wound. Fletcher was transferred to the British controlled island of Dominica where he was appointed chief engineer before being sent home at the end of 1796.

While in England, Fletcher served as adjutant to the Royal Military Artificers in Portsmouth until December 1798 when he was sent to Constantinople (now Istanbul) to act as an advisor to the Ottoman Government. Intending to travel through Hanover, Fletcher set sail from England but his ship was wrecked near the mouth of the river Elbe and Fletcher was forced to walk across two miles of ice before reaching land. After three months travelling through Austria and Ottoman territories in the Balkans, Fletcher finally arrived in Constantinople on 29 March 1799. In June 1799, Fletcher, alongside Ottoman troops, advanced into Syria, forcing Napoleon to forgo his siege of Acre and retreat to Egypt.

During 1799, after his return from Syria, Fletcher took part in the preparation of the defences for the Turks in the Dardanelles. After a spell with Ottoman forces in Cyprus, Fletcher returned to Syria in June 1800, to oversee the construction of fortifications at Jaffa and El Arish. Fletcher served under Sir Ralph Abercromby in December 1800 at Marmaris Bay, practising beach assaults for the expected invasion of Egypt the following year. An expedition to reconnoitre the Egyptian port of Alexandria, led to Fletcher’s capture when, while returning to his ship after a night reconnaissance mission ashore, Fletcher was intercepted by a French patrol vessel. He was held prisoner in Alexandria until its capture on 2 September 1801.

In October 1801, when the general armistice was signed, Fletcher returned to England, having been promoted to captain while he was imprisoned and later decorated by the Ottoman Empire for his services. The Treaty of Amiens was signed on 25 March 1802 but peace was shortlived and war broke out in May the following year. Fletcher was again sent to Portsmouth where he helped bolster the defences of Gosport. Promoted to major on 2 April 1807, Fletcher took part in the Battle of Copenhagen in August that year.

Soon after the start of the Peninsular War, Fletcher was sent to Portugal. He was part of the force that occupied Lisbon when the French withdrew following the Convention of Sintra, after which he accompanied Wellington as his chief engineer in the field. Promoted to lieutenant-colonel in the army, 2 March 1809, and then the Royal Engineers, 24 June 1809, he fought at the Battle of Talavera (27-28 July 1809) for which he received a mention in dispatches.

It was while Wellington was making preparations for a retreat to Portugal, that Fletcher became famous for one of the greatest military engineering feats in history. The celebrated Lines of Torres Vedras were constructed on the narrow peninsula between the Atlantic and the Tagus. These three lines of defence; the first 6 miles in front of the principal one and the last 20 miles behind, were intended to protect Lisbon and provide a line of retreat for the British to their ships should it be required. Fletcher began work on these defences on 20 October 1809, using Portuguese soldiers and civilians for the bulk of the labour. Rocky slopes were steepened and reinforced, and defiles were obstructed with forts and earthworks; trees and vegetation were removed to deprive the enemy of cover and sustenance, watercourses were dammed inorder to construct impassable lakes or swamps and any buildings were either fortified or destroyed. Fortifications guarded every approach and batteries commanded the highground, while a system of signal stations and roads ensured that troops could be sent quickly to where they were needed the most. And all was conducted with the utmost secrecy so that neither Napoleon nor even the British Government were aware of the lines’ existence until Wellington was obliged to retreat behind them later the following year.

In July 1810, shortly before completion of the lines, Fletcher left the fortifications to serve alongside Wellington once more in the field, and was thus at the Battle of Buçaco (27 September 1810) where he again distinguished himself and was mentioned in dispatches. Wellington fell back to the Lines of Torres Vedras in October 1810, pursued by Marshal Masséna, who was shocked to find such extensive defences, having been promised by Portuguese rebels that the road to Lisbon was an easy one. Wellington’s superiors were equally surprised to hear about the defences when they later received his report. After an unsuccessful attack on 18 October, Masséna initially retreated to Santarém but when his supplies ran out the following March, he abandoned any thoughts of another attempt and headed north.

Fletcher, as part of Wellington’s forces, chased Masséna to Sabugal where, after some skirmishing, on 2 April, Masséna was finally brought to action at the Battle of Sabugal; the first of a number of engagements as Wellington and Masséna competed for position along the Portuguese and Spanish border. After forcing Masséna to abandon Sabugal, Wellington turned his attention towards Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo; two fortresses that guarded the northern approach to Portugal. Wellington had planned to capture both while Masséna’s army was still in disarray but the loss of Badajoz to Marshall Soult on 11 March, which protected the south, compelled him to divide his force. Wellington sent a quarter of his troops to reinforce General Beresford’s, with orders to re-take Badajoz, while his remaining force, which included Fletcher, would lay siege to Almeida. Masséna, now with a superior force, marched to relieve Almeida and Wellington, not wishing to fight under those conditions, withdrew to the town of Fuentes d’Onoro. The town changed hands a number of times during a battle that took place over 3 days (3 – 5 May), but ultimately remained under British control. Massénna’s troops were neither able to reach the fort nor stay in the open and were thus forced to leave on 8 May. Wellington continued his siege and took possession of Almeida two days later.

Fletcher was again mentioned in dispatches when serving as chief engineer at the second siege of Badajoz (19 May – 10 June 1811). The engineers suffered many casualties in their attempts to dig the thin rocky soils around a fort that had been repaired and reinforced since the last unsuccessful siege. Running short of ammunition and having sustained heavy losses; and with news that French reinforcements were on the way, Wellington withdrew his forces to Elvas on 10 June. Fletcher was also present when Ciudad Rodrigo (7 – 19 January 1812) and, on the third attempt, Badajoz (17 March – 16 April 1812) were captured. In the latter engagement it was Fletcher who identified the weak point in the defences and so ultimately decided where the main attack should be. On 19 March, Fletcher was shot in the groin when a French sortie in the fog reached the trenches where he and his engineers were working. His injury might have been much worse if it wasn’t for a Spanish Silver Dollar in his pocket which took the main force of the musket ball. Fletcher’s injury had him confined to his tent where Wellington, desperately short of good engineers, visited him daily for advice. Fletcher returned to England to recover, and was made a baronet on 14 December 1812, and awarded a pension of £1.00 per diem. He received the Portuguese award of the Order of the Tower and Sword; and the Army Gold Cross for Talavera, Bussaco, Ciudad Rodrigo, and Badajoz.

Fletcher returned to the Peninsular in 1813 and received a further mention in dispatches for his role in the Battle of Vitoria on 21 June. Fletcher directed the sieges of Pamplona and San Sebastián. He was killed in action during the final assault on San Sebastián on 31 August 1813.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Major General Sir William Erskine 2nd Baronet
30 March 1770 – 1813

Major General Sir William Erskine 2nd Baronet was commissioned into the 23rd foot 1785, and transferred to the 5th Dragoons as a lieutenant in 1787, and in 1791 became captain of the 15th King’s Light Dragoons (the unit his father had served in with distinction) on 23 February 1791. His first active service was in Flanders 1793–95, during the French Revolutionary Wars, when he acted as aide-de-camp to his father. In 1794 he was made lieutenant-colonel. and fought at the Battle of Villers-en-Cauchies, where a handful of English and Austrian cavalry routed a much larger force of French infantry and cavalry.

On his father’s death in 1795, Erskine became baronet. He represented Fife in Parliament in 1796 and 1802–1805. Despite being “blind as a beetle”, according to a fellow officer, in 1808, Erskine received promotion to major general. When he heard Erskine was being shipped to Portugal, Wellington complained that he “generally understood him to be a madman.” The administrators of the army at Horse Guards responded that, “No doubt he is sometimes a little mad, but in his lucid intervals he is an uncommonly clever fellow; and I trust he will have no fit during the campaign, though he looked a little wild as he embarked.”

During the 1811 campaign in Portugal, Erskine took over the command of the famous Light Division in the absence of Robert Craufurd. He soon developed a reputation for rashness. Wellington wrote, “It is impossible to trust to his judgment in any critical case.”

While pursuing Marshal Andre Massena’s retreating French army, several sharp actions were fought at Pombal, Redinha, Casal Novo and Foz do Arouce between the Light Division and Marshal Michel Ney’s rearguard. At Casal Novo on 14 March 1811, Erskine advanced his men along the main road in fog without proper scouts. When the fog suddenly cleared, his leading elements found themselves facing elements of Jean Marchand’s division deployed in line with artillery support. This carelessness cost the Light Division 155 killed and wounded, while Marchand lost only 55 men.

At the Battle of Sabugal, the fog and Erskine’s bungling saved General Jean Reynier’s isolated French corps from destruction. Wellington assigned Erskine with the Light Division and some cavalry to cut in behind Reynier’s open left flank while four divisions attacked in front. The hapless Erskine, who was very nearsighted, issued a set of foolish orders then promptly got lost in the fog with the cavalry. The leaderless Light Division covered itself with glory in the subsequent action, but the French escaped from Wellington’s trap.

During the Battle of Fuentes de Onoro, Erskine’s 5th and Alexander Campbell’s 6th Divisions covered the Siege of Almeida. After the French relief army was turned back, the French garrison slipped out of the fortress in the night and marched straight through the blockading force to freedom. On this occasion, an exasperated Wellington said, “I have never been so distressed by any military event as by the escape of even a man of them.” This time Erskine was only one of several officers who blundered. Aware that he could not dismiss Erskine because of the man’s political influence, Wellington tried to place Erskine in positions where he could do little damage.

From 19 June 1811, Erskine led four mounted regiments in the newly organized 2nd Cavalry Division in Rowland Hill’s corps. He soon relinquished command, but reassumed his post on 8 April 1812. Soon after, he was declared insane and cashiered. He took his own life in Lisbon in 1813 by jumping out of a window, reportedly with the last words, “Now why did I do that?”.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

King’s College London
1829-

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King’s College London

King’s College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom, and a founding constituent college of the federal University of London. King’s was founded in 1829 by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington and received its royal charter in the same year. In 1836, King’s became one of the two founding colleges of the University of London. King’s is regarded as one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary research universities, ranked 21st in the world by the 2016/17 QS World University Rankings.

King’s College London, so named to indicate the patronage of King George IV, was founded in 1829 in response to the theological controversy surrounding the founding of “London University” (which later became University College London) in 1826. London University was founded, with the backing of Utilitarians, Jews and non-Anglican Christians, as a secular institution, intended to educate “the youth of our middling rich people between the ages of 15 or 16 and 20 or later” giving its nickname, “the godless college in Gower Street”.

The need for such an institution was a result of the religious and social nature of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which then educated solely the sons of wealthy Anglicans. The secular nature of London University was disapproved by The Establishment, indeed, “the storms of opposition which raged around it threatened to crush every spark of vital energy which remained”. Thus, the creation of a rival institution represented a Tory response to reassert the educational values of The Establishment. More widely, King’s was one of the first of a series of institutions which came about in the early nineteenth century as a result of the Industrial Revolution and great social changes in England following the Napoleonic Wars. By virtue of its foundation King’s has enjoyed the patronage of the monarch, the Archbishop of Canterbury as its visitor and during the nineteenth century counted among its official governors the Lord Chancellor, Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Mayor of London.

The simultaneous support of the Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (who was also UK’s Prime Minister then), for an Anglican King’s College London and the Roman Catholic Relief Act, which was to lead to the granting of almost full civil rights to Catholics, was challenged by George Finch-Hatton, 10th Earl of Winchilsea, in early 1829. Winchilsea and his supporters wished for King’s to be subject to the Test Acts, like the universities of Oxford, where only members of the Church of England could matriculate, and Cambridge, where non-Anglicans could matriculate but not graduate, but this was not Wellington’s intent.

Winchilsea and about 150 other contributors withdrew their support of King’s College London in response to Wellington’s support of Catholic emancipation. In a letter to Wellington he accused the Duke to have in mind “insidious designs for the infringement of our liberty and the introduction of Popery into every department of the State”. The letter provoked a furious exchange of correspondence and Wellington accused Winchilsea of imputing him with “disgraceful and criminal motives” in setting up King’s College London. When Winchilsea refused to retract the remarks, Wellington – by his own admission, “no advocate of duelling” and a virgin duellist – demanded satisfaction in a contest of arms: “I now call upon your lordship to give me that satisfaction for your conduct which a gentleman has a right to require, and which a gentleman never refuses to give.”

The result was a duel in Battersea Fields on 21 March 1829. Winchilsea did not fire, a plan he and his second almost certainly decided upon before the duel; Wellington took aim and fired wide to the right. Accounts differ as to whether Wellington missed on purpose. Wellington, noted for his poor aim, claimed he did, other reports more sympathetic to Winchilsea claimed he had aimed to kill. Honour was saved and Winchilsea wrote Wellington an apology. “Duel Day” is still celebrated on the first Thursday after 21 March every year, marked by various events throughout King’s, including reenactments.

King’s opened in October 1831 with the cleric William Otter appointed as first principal and lecturer in divinity. The Archbishop of Canterbury presided over the opening ceremony, in which a sermon was given in the chapel by Charles Blomfield, the Bishop of London, on the subject of combining religious instruction with intellectual culture. Despite the attempts to make King’s Anglican-only, the initial prospectus permitted, “nonconformists of all sorts to enter the college freely”. William Howley: the governors and the professors, except the linguists, had to be members of the Church of England but the students did not, though attendance at chapel was compulsory.

King’s was divided into a senior department and a junior department, also known as King’s College School, which was originally situated in the basement of the Strand Campus. The Junior department started with 85 pupils and only three teachers, but quickly grew to 500 by 1841.

Within the Senior department teaching was divided into three courses: a general course comprised divinity, classical languages, mathematics, English literature and history; a medical course; and miscellaneous subjects, such as law, political economy and modern languages, which were not related to any systematic course of study at the time and depended for their continuance on the supply of occasional students. In 1833 the general course was reorganised leading to the award of the Associate of King’s College (AKC), the first qualification issued by King’s. The course, which concerns questions of ethics and theology, is still awarded today to students and staff who take an optional three-year course alongside their studies.

The river frontage was completed in April 1835 at a cost of £7,100, its completion a condition of King’s College London securing the site from the Crown. Unlike those in the school, student numbers in the Senior department remained almost stationary during King’s first five years of existence. During this time the medical school was blighted by inefficiency and the divided loyalties of the staff leading to a steady decline in attendance. One of the most important appointments was that of Charles Wheatstone as professor of Experimental Philosophy.

At this time neither King’s, “London University”, nor the medical schools at the London hospitals could confer degrees. In 1835 the government announced that it would establish an examining board to grant degrees, with “London University” and King’s both becoming affiliated colleges. This became the University of London in 1836, the former “London University” becoming University College, London (UCL).

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Thomas Stothard
17 August 1755 – 27 April 1834

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Thomas Stothard

Thomas Stothard was born in London, the son of a well-to-do innkeeper in Long Acre A delicate child, he was sent at the age of five to a relative in Yorkshire, and attended school at Acomb, and afterwards at Tadcaster and at Ilford, Essex. Showing talent for drawing, he was apprenticed to a draughtsman of patterns for brocaded silks in Spitalfields. In his spare time, he attempted illustrations for the works of his favourite poets. Some of these drawings were praised by Harrison, the editor of the Novelist’s Magazine. Stothard’s master having died, he resolved to devote himself to art.

In 1778 he became a student of the Royal Academy, of which he was elected associate in 1792 and full academician in 1794. In 1812 he was appointed librarian to the Academy after serving as assistant for two years. Among his earliest book illustrations are plates engraved for Ossian and for Bell’s Poets. In 1780, he became a regular contributor to the Novelist’s Magazine, for which he produced 148 designs, including his eleven illustrations to The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (by Tobias Smollett) and his graceful subjects from Clarissa and The History of Sir Charles Grandison (both by Samuel Richardson).

From 1786, Thomas Fielding, a friend of Stothard’s and engraver, produced engravings using designs by Stothard, Angelica Kauffman, and of his own. Arcadian scenes were especially esteemed. Fielding realized these in colour, using copper engraving, and achieved excellent quality. Stothard’s designs had an exceptional aesthetic appeal.

He designed plates for pocket-books, tickets for concerts, illustrations to almanacs, and portraits of popular actors. These are popular with collectors for their grace and distinction. His more important works include illustrations for:

  • Two sets for Robinson Crusoe, one for the New Magazine and one for Stockdale’s edition
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress (1788)
  • Harding’s edition of Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield (1792)
  • The Rape of the Lock (1798)
  • The works of Solomon Gessner (1802)
  • William Cowper’s Poems (1825)
  • The Decameron

His figure-subjects in Samuel Rogers’s Italy (1830) and Poems (1834) demonstrate that even in old age, his imagination remained fertile and his hand firm.

Art historian Ralph Nicholson Wornum estimated that Stothard’s designs number five thousand and, of these, about three thousand were engraved. His oil pictures are usually small. His colouring is often rich and glowing in the style of Rubens, who Stothard admired. The Vintage, perhaps his most important oil painting, is in the National Gallery. He contributed to John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery, but his best-known painting is the Procession of the Canterbury Pilgrims, in Tate Britain, the engraving from which, begun by Luigi and continued by Niccolo Schiavonetti and finished by James Heath, was immensely popular. The commission for this picture was given to Stothard by Robert Hartley Cromek, and was the cause of a quarrel with his friend William Blake. It was followed by a companion work, the Flitch of Bacon, which was drawn in sepia for the engraver but was never carried out in colour.

In addition to his easel pictures, Stothard decorated the grand staircase of Burghley House, near Stamford in Lincolnshire, with subjects of War, Intemperance, and the Descent of Orpheus in Hell (1799–1803); the library of Colonel Johnes’ mansion of Hafod, in North Wales, with a series of scenes from Froissart and Monstrelet painted in imitation of relief (1810); and the cupola of the upper hall of the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh (later occupied by the Signet Library), with Apollo and the Muses, and figures of poets, orators, etc. (1822). He prepared designs for a frieze and other sculptural decorations for Buckingham Palace, which were not executed, owing to the death of George IV. He also designed a shield presented to the Duke of Wellington by the merchants of London, and executed a series of eight etchings from the various subjects that adorned it.

He married Rebecca Watkins in 1783. They had eleven children, six of whom – five sons and one daughter – survived infancy. They lived in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, until 1794, when they moved to a house at 28 Newman Street, of which Stothard had bought the freehold. His wife died in 1825. His sons included Thomas, accidentally shot dead in about 1801; the antiquarian illustratorCharles Alfred Stothard, who also predeceased his father; and Alfred Joseph Stothard, medallist to George IV.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Major-General Robert Ross
1766 – 12 September 1814

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Robert Ross

Major-General Robert Ross was born in Rostrevor, County Down, Ireland, to Major David Ross, an officer in the Seven Years’ War and his mother, half-sister to the Earl of Charlemont. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, where he was a treasurer of the College Historical Society and joined the 25th Regiment of Foot as an ensign in 1789.

Ross fought as a junior officer at the battles of Krabbendam in the Netherlands in 1799 and the Battle of Alexandria in Egypt in 1801. In 1803, he was promoted to major and given command of the 20th Regiment of Foot. He next fought at the Maida in the Kingdom of Naples in 1806. He was promoted to Lieutenant–Colonel at the end of 1808 and fought in the Battle of Corunna in Spain in early 1809. In 1810, Ross was made a full Colonel as well as aide-de-camp to the King.

In 1813 Ross was sent to serve under Arthur Wellesley in the Peninsular War and commanded his regiment at the battles of Vittoria, Roncesvalles, and Sorauren that year. He was seriously wounded in the left side of his neck at the Battle of Orthes, on 27 February 1814, and had just returned to service when he was given command of an expeditionary force to attack the United States.

Ross sailed to North America as a Major General to take charge of all British troops off the east coast of the United States. He personally led the British troops ashore in Benedict, Maryland, and marched through Upper Marlboro, Maryland, to the attack on the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg on 24 August 1814, causing the hastily organised militia of the American army to collapse into a rout. Moving on from Bladensburg, Ross moved on to nearby Washington, D.C., and was fired upon; his horse was shot from under him. The public buildings, facilities and Navy Yards of the city, including the United States Capitol and the White House were burned as retaliation for destructive American raids into Canada, most notably the Americans’ Burning of York (modern Toronto) earlier in 1813, which were themselves in retaliation to British raids into the United States. Controversy surrounds Ross’s decision to destroy public property but spare private property during the burning.

Ross then was persuaded to attack Baltimore, Maryland. His troops landed at the southern tip of the “Patapsco Neck” peninsula (between the Patapsco River and Baltimore Harbor on the south and Back River on the north) of southeastern Baltimore County at North Point, twelve miles southeast from the city, on the morning of 12 September 1814. En route to what would be the Battle of North Point, a part of the larger Battle of Baltimore, the British advance encountered American skirmishers. General Ross rode forward to personally direct his troops. An American sharpshooter shot him through the right arm into the chest. According to Baltimore tradition, two American riflemen, Daniel Wells, 18, and Henry McComas, 19, fired at him and one of them had fired the fatal shot. Ross died while he was being transported back to the fleet.

Ross’s body was preserved in a barrel of 129 gallons (586 l) of Jamaican rum aboard HMS Tonnant. When the Tonnant was diverted to New Orleans for the forthcoming battle in January 1815, his body was shipped on the British ship HMS Royal Oak to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where his body was interred on 29 September 1814 in the Old Burying Ground.

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