Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Fox Baroness Holland’

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 Godfrey Webster 4th Baronet
25 December 1747 – 3 June 1800


Sir Godfrey Webster 4th Baronet

Sir Godfrey Webster 4th Baronet was the son of Sir Godfrey Webster, 3rd Baronet and Elizabeth Cooper of Lockington, Derbyshire, and nephew of Sir Whistler Webster, 2nd Baronet.

In January 1780 Webster was on a Sussex committee set up to support the reformist Yorkshire Association. In 1783 he was fighting in a Sussex reform meeting for a general petition. In 1786 he entered parliament as MP for Seaford, with support from the Pelham interest, and after a petition. Standing there again in 1790 with John Tarleton, he was defeated, but Tarleton was elected after a petition. He was back in Parliament in 1796, for Wareham.

Webster’s uncle, the 2nd baronet, died in 1779, and about half a year later his father died in 1780, making him the 4th baronet. He inherited also Battle Abbey with its estate, but not with vacant possession since his aunt remained in residence.

Webster was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1786. He committed suicide, shooting himself on 3 June 1800 after gambling losses.


Lady Webster about 1795, by Louis Gauffier

Webster married in 1786 Elizabeth Vassall, daughter and heiress of Richard Vassall of Jamaica. It was a disastrous union which ended in divorce after Elizabeth’s repeated affairs with other men.

They had three children, not including two sons who died young:

  • Godfrey Vassall Webster, the 5th baronet;
  • Henry Vassall Webster;
  • Harriet Frances Webster, who married Fleetwood Pellew

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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.

Lady Mary Fox
19 December 1798 – 13 July 1864


Mary Fox

Lady Mary Fox was born in Bushy House as the fourth child and second daughter of the then Prince William, Duke of Clarence, and his companion Dorothea Jordan. She was “a fine looking, brown girl with a pleasant countenance and manners”. In 1820, her younger sister Elizabeth was courted by Charles Richard Fox, the eldest but illegitimate son of Lord and Lady Holland. His parents did not consent to the match, but four years later approved of his relationship with Mary.

The couple married on 19 June 1824 in St George’s, Hanover Square, London. Lady Holland worried that she might be “a sickly subject” and wished that the “roturier blood of the mother might have mitigated the royal constitutions”. Her mother-in-law wrote on 31 August that her son, “though fond of her, he only considers her as an auxiliary to his medals and other possessions, not as a principal”, but concluded that “it will all do well; as she is very winning, and very firm, and sincerely fond of him.” The pair established their household in Little Holland House by 1827. They moved to Canada in September 1829 when Charles resumed active army service.

Mary Fox received from her father the second part of the Anthony Roll, which had been in the possession of the royal family since the reign of King Henry VIII of England, though she was probably not interested in the history of the Royal Navy. The death of her uncle, King George IV, in 1830 led to her father’s accession to the thrones of the United Kingdom and Hanover. The new king was anxious to see his daughter return home and had her husband transferred. He granted her the rank of a marquess’ daughter on 24 May 1831.

King William IV died in January 1837 and Lady Mary’s cousin, Princess Alexandrina Victoria, ascended the throne. Later that year, Lady Mary published a utopian feminist Gothic fiction narrative titled An Account of an Expedition to the Interior of New Holland. Lady Mary’s treatise is the most representative example of the portrayal of New Holland (Australia) as a mysterious and “unreal” place. In January 1857, Sir Frederic Madden, custodian of the manuscripts at the British Museum, learned that Lady Mary wished to sell the roll she was given by her father in order to raise funds for building a church “or something of that kind”.

For a large part of her later life, Lady Mary served as housekeeper at Windsor Castle. She died childless on 13 July 1864. She is buried with her husband at Kensal Green Cemetery.

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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 Atherton Powys 3rd Baron Lilford
2 December 1801 – 15 March 1861

Thomas Powys 3rd Baron Lilford was the son of Thomas Powys, 2nd Baron Lilford, and Henrietta Maria Atherton of Atherton Hall. He succeeded his father as third Baron Lilford in 1825. In 1837 he was appointed a Lord-in-Waiting (government whip in the House of Lords) in the Whig administration of Lord Melbourne, a post he held until the government fell in August 1841. He never returned to office.

Lord Lilford married the Hon. Mary Elizabeth Fox, daughter of Henry Vassall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland, and Lady Holland, in 1830, and had ten children. He inherited Lilford Hall in Northamptonshire from his father in 1825. In 1860, he inherited Bank Hall in Bretherton, Lancashire, on the death of his brother-in-law George Anthony Legh Keck. A year after inheriting he died in March 1861, aged 59, and was succeeded by his eldest son Thomas, a prominent ornithologist. Lady Lilford died in 1891.

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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.

General Charles Richard Fox
6 November 1796 – 13 April 1873


Charles Richard Fox

General Charles Richard Fox was born at Brompton, the illegitimate son of Henry Richard Vassall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland, through a liaison with Lady Webster, whom Lord Holland would later marry.

After some service in the Royal Navy, Fox entered the Grenadiers, and was known in later life as a collector of Greek coins. His collection was bought for the royal museum of Berlin when he died in 1873. He married in St. George’s, Hanover Square, London, on 19 June 1824 Lady Mary FitzClarence, a daughter of William IV by his mistress Dorothea Jordan. The couple had no issue.

Fox was a politician. He represented the Whig interest and sat for Calne 1831-32, then Tavistock 1832-35. He briefly represented Stroud in 1835, but resigned that seat so Lord John Russell could contest it. He was elected as a Member of Parliament for the east London constituency of Tower Hamlets in 1841 and served until 1847.

Fox was Surveyor-General of the Ordnance in 1841 and 1846-52. He was promoted Major-General on 9 November 1846, Lieutenant-General on 20 June 1854, and General on 6 March 1863.

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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.

Henry Richard Vassall-Fox 3rd Baron Holland
21 November 1773 – 22 October 1840


Henry Vassall-Fox

Henry Vassall-Fox 3rd Baron Holland was born at Winterslow House, Wiltshire, the son of Stephen Fox, 2nd Baron Holland and Lady Mary, daughter of John FitzPatrick, 1st Earl of Upper Ossory and Lady Evelyn, daughter of John Leveson-Gower, 1st Earl Gower. His paternal grandparents were Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland, and Lady Caroline Lennox, the eldest of the famous Lennox Sisters and a great-granddaughter (through an illegitimate line) of King Charles II.

He succeeded in the barony in December 1774, aged one, on the early death of his father, while his mother died shortly before his fifth birthday. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, where he became the friend of George Canning and John Hookham Frere. Lord Holland’s uncle was the great Whig orator Charles James Fox, and he remained steadily loyal to the Whig party.

On a visit to Paris in 1791 Holland became acquainted with Lafayette and Talleyrand. He took his seat in the House of Lords on 5 October 1796. According to the 1911 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica he for a while “almost … constituted the Whig party in the upper house.” He was appointed to negotiate a treaty with American envoys James Monroe and William Pinkney, was admitted to the Privy Council on 27 August 1806, and on the 15th of October entered the Ministry of All the Talents led by Lord Grenville as Lord Privy Seal, retiring with the rest of his colleagues in March 1807.

Holland led the opposition to the Regency bill in 1811, and he attacked the orders in council and other strong measures of the government taken to counteract Napoleon’s Berlin decrees. He denounced the treaty of 1813 with Sweden which bound Britain to consent to the forcible union of Norway, and he resisted the bill of 1816 for confining Napoleon in Saint Helena. He was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster between 1830 and 1834 and 1835 and 1840 in the cabinets of Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne, and he was still in office when he died in October 1840.

Holland’s protests against the measures of the Tory ministers were collected and published, as the Opinions of Lord Holland (1841), by Dr Moylan of Lincoln’s Inn. Lord Holland’s Foreign Reminiscences (1850) contain much amusing gossip from the Revolutionary and Napoleonic era. His Memoirs of the Whig Party (1852) is an important contemporary authority. He also published a small work on Lope de Vega (1806).

After visiting Paris in 1791 Holland again went abroad to travel in France and Italy in 1793. At Florence he met Elizabeth Vassall, at that time Lady Webster, wife of Sir Godfrey Webster, 4th Baronet. She and her husband obtained a divorce, and she married Holland on 6 July 1797, becoming Elizabeth Fox, Baroness Holland. An illegitimate son, Charles Richard Fox, was born to them. He later rose to become a General in the British Army.

They had three more children: the Hon. Stephen Fox (d. 1800), Henry Edward Fox, 4th Baron Holland, and Hon. Mary Elizabeth Fox, married to Thomas Powys, 3rd Baron Lilford. In 1800 he was authorized to take the name of Vassall, and after 1807 he signed himself Vassall Holland, though the name was no part of his title. Lord Holland died in October 1840, aged 66, and was succeeded in his titles by his eldest and only surviving legitimate son, Henry. Lady Holland died in November 1845.

Vassall ward in the London Borough of Lambeth is named after Henry Richard Vassall-Fox who was responsible for the first building development in the area in the 1820s. Roads in the area such as Lord Holland Lane or Foxley Square commemorate this connection.

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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.

Elizabeth Fox Baroness Holland


Elizabeth Fox

Elizabeth Vassall was born in 1771 in London, the only child of Richard Vassall, a planter in Jamaica and Mary Clarke. She married Sir Godfrey Webster, 4th Baronet in 1786. He was more than 20 years older than she was. They had three children that survived infancy. As Lady Webster she spent much of the early 1790s travelling in Europe, visiting France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. She enjoyed the guidance and friendship of the Duchess of Devonshire and politician Thomas Pelham.

In 1794, Lady Webster met Whig politician Henry Fox, 3rd Baron Holland in Naples and they embarked on a love affair. In 1796 she gave birth to their son Charles Richard Fox, and the following year she was divorced by Webster on the grounds of adultery. She married Holland two days after her divorce, on 6 July 1797. They lived together in Holland House in Kensington, then just outside London, and for many years hosted the elite of Whig society. Visitors included Lord Grey, George Tierney, Samuel Rogers, Walter Scott, Ugo Foscolo, Sydney Smith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

Lady Holland became known by her guests, and contemporary observers for her domineering nature, in contrast to her husband. In his journals, Sydney Smith, a friend of both Lord and Lady Holland, called her a “formidable woman”. Actress Fanny Kemble visited Holland house with her sister Adelaide Kemble described what she called the “domineering rudeness” of Lady Holland. Lady Holland’s rule extended not only to all of the guests at Holland House but to Lord Holland too. She dictated when he should go to bed, what he should wear and would have servants take him away from the table in his wheelchair when he was in the middle of telling a story.

Both Lord and Lady Holland were great admirers of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1815, Lady Holland commission a bronze bust of him from sculptor Antonio Canova, which was placed in the garden at Holland House. After Napoleon was exiled to Saint Helena in 1815, Lady Holland sent him supplies of food and hundreds of books. Napoleon remembered Lady Holland in his will and following his death in 1821, his companions General Henri Gratien Bertrand and the Marquis de Montholon arrived at Holland House, delivering a snuffbox. The gold snuffbox, which had been a gift to Napoleon from Pope Pius VI, was bequeathed by Lady Holland to the British Museum.

Lord Holland died on 22 October 1840. After his death, Lady Holland lived at 33 South Street, a property she had inherited from her mother. She continued to entertain, and it was here that the historian John Allen died in 1843. In November of that year she moved to 9 Great Stanhope Street, a property she rented from Lord Palmerston.

Lady Holland died in 1845. By the end of her life, she had become estranged from her children. In his Memoirs, diarist Charles Greville called Lady Holland “a social light which illuminated and adorned England, and even Europe, for half a century”.

Lady Holland became known for permanently introducing the dahlia to the United Kingdom. An unsuccessful attempt had been made in 1789 by the Marchioness of Bute who brought the plant from Spain, but failed to propagate it. Whilst in Madrid in 1804, Lady Holland was given either dahlia seeds or roots by botanist Antonio José Cavanilles. She sent them back to England, to Lord Holland’s librarian Mr Buonaiuti at Holland House, who successfully raised the plants. In 1824, Lord Holland sent his wife a note containing the following verse:

“The dahlia you brought to our isle
Your praises for ever shall speak;
Mid gardens as sweet as your smile,
And in colour as bright as your cheek.”

Lady Holland had 11 children, seven of whom survived infancy.
With Sir Godfrey Webster:

Godfrey Vassall Webster (1789–1836)

  • a son who died young, born in 1790
  • Henry Vassall Webster (1793–1847)
  • Harriet Frances Webster (1794–1849), married Admiral Fleetwood Pellew, is buried with him in Florence’s ‘English’ Cemetery.
  • a son who died young, born in October 1795

With Henry Vassall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland:

  • Charles Richard Fox (6 November 1796 – 13 April 1873), army general and politician
  • Stephen Fox (1799–1800)
  • Henry Edward Fox, 4th Baron Holland (7 May 1802 – 18 December 1859), politician and ambassador
  • Mary Elizabeth Fox (1806–1891), married Thomas Powys, 3rd Baron Lilford
  • Georgiana Anne Fox (1809–1819)
  • a daughter, born and died on 24 June 1812

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