We all know that lovely feeling. You’ve been on a very long journey and are almost home. You can’t wait to get back to the place you know, get the kettle on and settle in. Just imagine how you’d feel if you’d been away for 2 years.
Our Mistress of Charlecote, Mary Elizabeth, embarked on an adventure – a Grand Tour of Europe – in 1840. She ventured to many places including Rome – where she was unimpressed with the cleanliness of their suite of apartments – Paris and Zurich! It wasn’t all joyous, as you will pick up from reading the memoirs of Mary Elizabeth.
Here is the account of their emotional return to Charlecote…
At last, on the 20th of May 1842 our carriage rumbled under the Charlecote Gatehouse followed by the chaise out of which climbed Spencer and Aymer, their two sisters and the nurse carrying darling Berkeley who was scarcely ten months old. How great was our thankfulness at returning to the dear old place after nearly two years. Home, sweet home, there is no place half so dear to me, but my eyes did not remain dry when I though of the deaths of two most dear and lovely boys, no longer here, and when I went to the nursery grief filled up the room of my absent children.
Mistress of Charlecote, Chapter 3
1829 – 1843 Dark Leaves in the Wreath
You can find this book, Mistress of Charlecote, for sale in our Servants’ Hall and Pantry shops. But do pop back here from time to time as we love to share the stories of Charlecote in our ‘On this day’ series.
Mary Elizabeth Lucy, our Victorian Mistress of Charlecote, recorded that on this day in 1829 her dear sister Miggy (or Margaret) was married.
Now, there is some dispute on the dates! A little bit of online archive searches will show that Margaret and Lord Willoughby of nearby Compton Verney, were married on 10 March. I, like many of her servants, would never defy what Mary Elizabeth says and will share with you the words from her memoirs…
…in mid-January Lord Willoughby came to Charlecote for the hunt ball at Stratford. At the ball he sat by me and, our conversation turning on matrimony, I said to him, ‘Why don’t you take a wife?’
‘Oh, no nice girl would take such an old fellow as me’
I said, ‘Faint heart never won fair lady. Take my advice and try.’
The next day he left Charlecote and I got the most ridiculous letter from him, asking if I thought he had any chance of winning my sister. I showed Miggy the letter and said, ‘What answer shall I send? Remember he is old enough to be your father and you cannot be in love with him. It may be all very fine to be Lady Willoughby de Broke but a coronet will not ensure your happiness.’
George, too, spoke very seriously to her but all cautioning was vain. She determined to be mistress of Compton Verney, so my answer to him was ‘You had better come and ask her yourself.’ He came and she accepted him, with delightful anticipation of the future. You cannot imagine the surprise the talk of marriage occassioned.
An antique line engraving after J. P. Neale. Circa 1830. The colouring is later.
…we took Miggy to London to get her trousseau. Lord Willoughby gave me carte blanche to buy her whatever jewels she wishes and her wedding veil, and I did not spare his money!
On the 3rd of March she was married by special licence in the Cathedral at St Asaph by the Bishop. They came back to Boddlewyddan as Lord and Lady Wiloughby de Broke to luncheon and to have their healths drunk, and after it went off to Lord Baggot’s Poole Park for simply one night and then set off for Compton Verney.
‘Well and happy’ is the only comment in the journal, when after a 3 week interval, the Lucy’s dined at Compton with the bridal pair.
On this day in 1850…
Two men stood trail at Warwick Assizes and were found guilty of burglary. They had broken into the house at Charlecote Park stealing many family treasures.
On 7 May Mary Elizabeth had been awoken at around 6am by her butler. He informed her that robbers had broken into the house by the garden door during the night. They had ransacked her sitting room, breakfast room, dining room and library. Many family relics and treasures were feared missing.
Mary Elizabeth wrote a list of the missing items and sent the butler to the nearest telegraph office, which was at Rugby. She also had information relating to the robbery posted in nearby towns and railway stations. She offered a reward of £100 for the capture of the criminals.
It later transpired that two men had been making enquiries in Barford about the ownership of the Park. The same men had also been asking similar questions in Warwick and were then seen carrying two large carpet bags. They had been spotted having breakfast in Hatton the morning the robbery had been discovered and then seen boarding a bus to Birmingham.
Inspector Glossop of Birmingham Police was informed of this and immediately suspected two local thieves – John Bradshaw and a man named Evans. Shortly afterwards he apprehended them. One of the men was armed with a loaded pistol, he attempted to use it but was over powered.
When searched John Bradshaw was found to have a number of items that implicated him in the robbery. These included a miniature of Sir Thomas Lucy, a purse containing £43.10s in gold, a silver penny and a pocket book containing Bradshaw’s expenses for the enterprise!
The men stood trial and were found guilty. They were sentenced with transportation – Evans for 10 years and Bradshaw 15 years. Bradshaw requested a meeting with Mary Elizabeth but she, perhaps understandably, refused.
If you wish to find out more about how Mary Elizabeth felt about this, read more in her memoirs…
We are often referring to the Mistress of Charlecote book in our posts, especially on our ‘On this day…’ series. But perhaps you think we might be a little biased. After all, they are the memoirs of Mary Elizabeth who played such an important role in creating the Charlecote that we know and love today.
Below you will find the first part of Susanna Ives review. Susanna herself is a writer and sets some of her stories in the Victorian era.
Intrigued? Just follow the links below to read more…
Several years ago, I was browsing through a research book – the title now escapes me – when I followed a tiny bibliographic note to a memoir titled Mistress of Charlecote – The Memoirs of Mary Elizabeth Lucy. Intrigued, I ordered a copy; and it has since become the favorite of all my research books. I admit, I haven’t read it from start to finish but willy-nilly, a few pages here and there. Yet wherever I begin reading, Mrs. Lucy’s voice immediately grabs me. It is intimate and unadorned, appealing to the modern reader. If you are a fan of Jane Austen or the late Regency and Victorian Eras, I highly recommend that you purchase this book.
One of the passages in her memoirs that really struck me was the description of her marriage to George Lucy in 1823. When her father informed her that she was to marry Mr. Lucy, she knelt and pleaded with him to refuse. But her father wouldn’t relent. She writes, “I had been brought up to obey my parents in everything and, though I dearly loved Papa, I had always rather feared him.” Mary Elizabeth runs to her mother in the nursery and weeps. Her mother assures the distraught young woman that she will learn to love her husband — an assumption that later proves correct. On her twentieth birthday, Mr. Lucy visited Elizabeth Lucy at her home, Boddlewyddan, in Wales (I’ve been there!), bringing her a Brussels lace wedding veil and jewelry made of diamonds and rubies… <more>
There is also a review on the Jane Austin web pages.
We’d love to hear what you thought of the book if you have read it. Please do share any of your thoughts by leaving a comment below.