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Monday, November 17, 2014

33.c Frances Pierrepont's brother Evelyn Pierrepont II A case of bigamy and scandal and his will disowning his natural heir

Following the normal lines of inheritance, Frances's father William should have inherited the estates of his father, including his titles.

However he died of smallpox when he was 20, and the Duke's estates then went to her brother  Evelyn Pierrepont, 2nd Duke of Kingston the Duke's grandson.

Like others in his family he spent time abroad.

He had been to Paris along with Lord Scarborough, taking with him an entire horse as a present to the Duke of Bourbon, and was unable to do this without a special Act of Parliament to authorise him. The Duke of Bourbon, in return for the compliment, placed his palace at Paris, and his château of Chantilly at the disposal of the visitor.

The Duke was handsome, young, wealthy and unmarried. A strong set was made at him by the young ladies of the French court; but of all the women he there met, none attracted his attentions and engaged his heart but the Marquise de la Touche, a lady who had been married for ten years and was the mother of three children. 

He finally persuaded her to elope with him to England, where, however, he grew cold towards her, and when he fell under the fascinations of Elizabeth Chudleigh he dismissed her. The Marquise returned to France, and was reconciled to her husband; there in 1786 she published her version of the story, and gave a history of her rival, whom naturally she paints in the blackest colours.


Many of the Garter knights have performed noble deeds and service, but not all of them have led exemplary and well-regulated lives. One of the most colourful of the 18th century knights was Evelyn Pierrepont (1711-1773), the second Duke of Kingston upon Hull.

His father, William Pierrepont, died the year after his birth, so he grew up without what might have been a restraining paternal influence. His early education seems to have been deplorable, and after some kind of schooling at Eton College, he took off on the grand tour of Europe in 1726, aged only about fourteen.

The same year, he succeeded his grandfather as Duke of Kingston upon Hull, an inheritance which was to have a major bearing on his lifestyle.

The ‘grand tour’ was an almost obligatory initiation for young men from aristocratic families.  In most cases, the tour would last a few years, usually taking in France, Italy, and possibly the Germanic lands. Evelyn Pierrepont chose to stay away for ten years, during which he acquired a scandalous reputation, a French mistress (already married with three children), and a love of sport and gambling.

Whilst abroad, he came of age, which meant he inherited Thoresby Park and Holme Pierrepont Hall in Nottinghamshire, plus estates in seven other counties, stretching from Yorkshire to Somerset.

And so in 1736, the young duke arrived back from France with his mistress, Marie-Therese de Fontaine de la Touche, in tow.

She later became a British subject and joined the Church of England. Their relationship lasted about fourteen years, though at one time he may have dallied with Frances Anne Vane (1715-88), the memoirist and serial sexual adventurer.

On the domestic economy front, his lucrative estates were just what he needed to finance his extravagant and rakish lifestyle, and so he spent without restraint.

By 1745, his debts were four times his income.

His grandfather, the first duke, had been a Garter knight, and this may have been the reason why he also received the Garter, in April 1741. On the day of his installation, he folded back the front of his coat to hide the star, perhaps feeling slightly embarrassed by the honour.

Politics was of scant interest to him, but he did hold several local offices, such as head ranger of Sherwood Forest, and master of the staghounds north of the Trent.

In 1745, though heavily in debt, he raised a regiment of light cavalry in response to the Jacobite threat, and his troops saw action at the decisive battle of Culloden in 1746.

Afterwards they burnt every house they could find and seized cattle. He actually reached the rank of general in 1772, though could hardly be termed an active soldier.

He then fell for the charms of  a certain Elizabeth Chudleigh, had an affair and then married her.

Elizabeth was born 1711 mar. 8 Mar 1769 to Evelyn, and died in 1787

Maid of Honour to HRH The Princess of Wales (b. c.1720;  former wife of Augustus John [Hervey], 3rd Earl of Bristol; d. 28 Oct 1788), dau. of Col Thomas Chudleigh, Lieutenant Governor of Chelsea Hospital, co. Middlesex (by his wife Henrietta .....), 2nd son of Sir George Chudleigh, 3rd Bt., of Ashton, co. Devon

Chudleigh, Elizabeth [married names Elizabeth Hervey, countess of Bristol; Elizabeth Pierrepont, duchess of Kingston upon Hull] (c.1720–1788), courtier and bigamist, was born probably at the family estate of Ashton, Devon.

She was the younger daughter and youngest child of Colonel Thomas Chudleigh (c.1688–1726), lieutenant-governor of Chelsea Hospital, and Henrietta Chudleigh (d. 1756) of Chalmington, Dorset.

Her grandmother had been the author Mary Chudleigh, wife of Sir George Chudleigh, bt; her brother, Thomas, inherited the baronetcy in 1738 and died three years later. Horace Walpole recalled playing with Thomas and Elizabeth in the hospital grounds when they were very young.

Elizabeth's lifelong acquisitive streak undoubtedly sprang from her impoverished childhood. Colonel Chudleigh died in 1726, having speculated disastrously in the South Sea Bubble; mother and daughter retired to the country.

Elizabeth never said why and how she became, at the age of fifteen, someone's mistress. A later and elderly protector, William Pulteney, afterwards earl of Bath, in 1743 had her appointed maid of honour to Augusta, princess of Wales.

After a fling with James, sixth duke of Hamilton, on 4 August 1744 Elizabeth secretly married Lieutenant the Hon. Augustus John Hervey RN (1724–1779), son of the court memoirist John, Baron Hervey of Ickworth, at Lainston, Hampshire.

Elizabeth quickly gathered admirers when she arrived at court. Before long, she met Augustus John Hervey, the future 3rd Earl of Bristol, and it was love – or lust – at first sight. Practically speaking, marriage wasn’t the best idea.

Hervey was only bringing in 50 pounds a year and it could be decades before he inherited his earldom. If the couple wed, Elizabeth would lose her position as maid of honor – and the 200 pounds per year that went along with it.

They married on August 4, 1744. They decided to keep their marriage a secret so after taking their vows, Hervey, a naval officer, returned to the sea, and his new bride went back to her post at court.

This secrecy allowed her to remain at court, but when in  1746 Hervey returned from two years' naval service in the West Indies, he was incensed to learn that she had not been faithful to him.

 A reconciliation, won after lavish payments of money by him, resulted in the birth of her only child, Augustus Henry, baptized at Chelsea in November 1747 and put out to nurse; he died soon afterwards. After much provocation, early in 1749 Hervey severed all relations with her.

Perhaps that brush-off led to Elizabeth's reckless appearance, at a masquerade at Ranelagh that May, as Iphigenia undressed for sacrifice: she wore a smile, some foliage rather low round her middle, and a covering of the flimsiest flesh-coloured gauze.

Princess Augusta reacted to this audacious impression of nakedness by throwing her veil over Elizabeth. The infatuated George II asked if he could place his hand on her bare breasts; with great presence of mind, she offered to put it on a still softer place and guided it to the royal forehead.

Far from taking offence, the king gave her a 35 guinea watch and made her mother a housekeeper at Windsor. The prints, rushed out to gratify the public's lubricious curiosity, show her to have been well built, with a comely face.

Even Elizabeth Montagu in her writings described the event


In 1749, Elizabeth attended a masquerade ball in the dress, or rather undress, of the character of Iphigenia. In a letter of Mrs. Montague to her sister, she says, "Miss Chudleigh's dress, or rather undress, was remarkable, she was Iphigenia for the sacrifice, but so naked, the high priest might easily inspect the entrails of the victim.

 The Maids of Honour (not of maids the strictest) were so offended they would not speak to her." Horace Walpole says, "Miss Chudleigh was Iphigenia, but so naked that you would have taken her for Andromeda." It was of her that the witty remark was then first made that she resembled Eve in that she was "naked and not ashamed." 

On May 17th Walpole writes: "I told you we were to have another masquerade; there was one by the King's command for Miss Chudleigh, the Maid of Honour, with whom our gracious monarch has a mind to believe himself in love, so much in love, that at one of the booths he gave her a fairing for her watch, which cost him five-and-thirty guineas, actually disbursed out of his privy purse, and not charged on the civil list. I hope some future Holinshed or Speed will acquaint posterity that five-and-thirty guineas were an immense sum in those days."

Elizabeth speedily became the mistress of Evelyn Pierrepont, second duke of Kingston upon Hull (1712–1773). In 1759 the failing health of George Hervey, second earl of Bristol, raised hopes that his brother, Augustus Hervey, would succeed to the earldom. Elizabeth confessed all to the princess dowager of Wales, dashed down to Hampshire, acquired a blank parish register, and had her marriage recorded, with one other entry for credibility's sake.

The nagging question of their marriage erupted in 1768 when Hervey, keen to marry another, pressed Elizabeth for a divorce. The couple seemingly colluded in allowing her to pursue a suit of jactitation in the consistory court, to stop Hervey's boasting that he was married to her.

She is said to have paid him £16,000 to offer a lame defence; she in turn privately justified her perjury by arguing that the ceremony had been such a scrambling and shabby affair as to amount to no marriage at all. In February 1769 the court ruled that the marriage had not taken place.

On 8 March Elizabeth married the duke of Kingston at St George's, Hanover Square.

But herein lies a story

On March 8, 1769, the Duke of Kingston married Elizabeth Chudleigh by special licence from the Archbishop, the minister who performed it being the Rev. Samuel Harper, of the British Museum, and the Church, St. Margaret's, Westminster. The Prince and Princess of Wales wore favours on the occasion.

But Elizabeth Chudleigh was already married!

This Duke went through a ceremony of marriage with Elizabeth Chudleigh who had been secretly married to the Hon. Augustus Hervey, a naval lieutenant. The marriage was a disaster and when Hervey found that he would soon become Earl of Bristol, he decided to get rid of his wife, and sued for divorce. Elizabeth denied that the marriage had taken.

Elizabeth was now approaching fifty. Like a later temptress, Emma, Lady Hamilton, she had grown fat, thanks to overeating and a fondness for the bottle. Yet she remained voluptuous, with large bovine eyes, a roundish nose, and sensual lips, never short of admirers.

Perverting the course of justice?

During the duke's illness, on September 24th 1773, the alarming reports of his health caused Walpole to break his long silence. We have him writing to the Earl of Strafford thus : " Her Grace of Kingston's glory approaches to consummation in a more worldly style. The duke is dying, and had given her the whole estate, seventeen thousand a year.

 I am told she has already notified the contents of the will and made offers of the sale of Thoresby. Pious matrons have various ways of expressing decency."

Here Walpole gives the keynote of the abuse which was afterwards showered upon the duchess.

Because she looked after herself in regard to the duke's will, which she had a perfect right to do, she has been denounced as an adventuress and a schemer.

We hold that Elizabeth conscientiously believed that she was the duke's legal wife, and, having this belief, she only did what every wife would have done in her place. It It must not be forgotten that her marriage with the duke raised a host of bitter enemies against her.

The duke's relations and connections were furious to think that nearly ^20,000 a year was passing from them, and it may be accepted without question that the Pierreponts and the Medowes, who were the next of kin, did not keep their sentiments to themselves.

So when it was rumoured that the duke was lying at the point of death excitement ran high, not only in the family circle but outside it, on the subject of his will. It was, in fact, the one topic of the fashionable gossips.

Bearing all this in mind, we approach the story of the duchess's conduct during the last moments of her husband. We are told that when she discovered death was imminent she dispatched a messenger to London to bring down her friend Mr. Field, the lawyer, post- haste to Bath.

 What happened after Mr. Field's arrival we give in the words of Elizabeth's biographer of 1789.

How the author came to know what most certainly must have been a confidential transaction has never been settled. The only person likely to be informed of what took place was Mr. Field himself,
and he was in no position to contradict the biographer, for in 1789 the lawyer was dead.  Her business with this gentleman of the law," " Life and Memoirs," " was of a curious nature.

The duke had made a will, by which he cut off his elder nephew, and entailed his estate upon a younger. For this will she would have substituted another, which she had prepared without the duke's knowledge, and which she desired Mr. Field to procure his grace to sign, and to witness it himself.

The difference between these two wills, as they respected the duchess, was this : by the first will the duke had bequeathed the income of his estate to his duchess for life, expressly under
condition of her continuing a widow ; by the second will this restriction was taken away. 

That a woman turned fifty should consider restraint from matrimony a grievance is rather extraordinary ; but more particularly such a woman as her grace, who considered the ceremony merely useful from its legal operation, and never considered it as a religious union. 

When Mr. Field was introduced to the duke he found his grace's intellect materially affected. A transient knowledge of his intimates and domestics were the only signs of mental ability that remained. Mr. Field, of course, remonstrated with the duchess on the danger and dishonesty of introducing a will to a man so debilitated in mind ; and in return received very severe reprehension from her grace. He, however, quitted the house, and to his honesty and honour his client owed everything the law afterwards allowed her to possess."

We give this story for what it is worth, and whether it is true or false or garbled it is impossible to decide ; all we need remark is that not a shred of corroboration is to be found anywhere. Whitehead once more makes his appearance in connection with the duke's last illness. What he says forms the concluding portion of the letter, the first half of which appears above.

" When the duke came afterwards to Bath, where he died, I was informed of his arrival and illness by
one of his servants, who likewise told me his grace wanted very much to see me ; that he enquired for me two or three times a day.

I went immediately to his house, sending a servant to inform the duchess (as no one durst wait on his grace, nor even carry a message to him, without her leave). She sent me word to call the next morning. When I attended, the same orders were sent for calling in the evening, and then in the This continued for three days, with- out ever letting me see him, though the servant in- formed me that his grace was always asking for me, taking it unkind I did not wait upon him.

He durst not acquaint him with my unsuccessful attempts for that purpose, for fear of his kind lady's resentment. I then wrote a letter begging Dr. Rains to deliver it to my honoured master, though to no purpose ; he durst not. This Dr. Rains the duke had a great opinion of, having brought him from Thoresby.

I next wrote to the duchess begging the favour of attending on his grace during his illness ; being so long used to his person, and better acquainted with his manner than the servant who then waited on him. This was he whom the duchess recommended from Lord Barrington, as already mentioned.

I believe she foresaw she might want his lordship's assistance. She sent me answer that when she wanted me she would send for me. As I almost now despaired of seeing my dear lord, I was determined to make one grand push for that purpose

Accordingly I went the next morning and entered a room on the left hand, as you go into the Abbey bathhouse. In about two minutes I heard the duke at the top of the stairs enquiring ' Where's Whitehead ? ' the duchess at the same time asking if he would have his chair brought in.

 ' No,' said he, ' I want to see Whitehead.' I instantly rushed past her grace, who endeavoured to stop me at the bottom of the stair- case, asking me where I was going. I met the good duke with tears in my eyes. I never saw a man so altered in so short a time. The duchess hurried him immediately into the chair, obliging me to go away ; and I never spoke to him afterwards."

Death of the duke 

Trouble really began when the duke died in 1773 and was found to have left her the income from his real estate for life and the whole of his personalty as long as she remained a widow; he feared that she could easily be taken in by some adventurer. 

The duke died at Bath on September 23rd, 1773, and immediately the fashionable letter-writers
reopened their batteries of raillery, making fine sport with the funeral and the grief of the duchess. Walpole's wit is none the less venomed because of his long neglect of the lady who was once the pet target for his shots.

In a letter to the Countess of Upper Ossory he says : " I do not agree with your ladyship that the Duchess of Kingston will have recourse to the protection of the King of Prussia. His Majesty has not shown such partiality to Hymen as implies a propensity to bigamy

It might be charity to continue her maid of honour, after she was married and had two children, and was starving at Chudleigh House, like poor fat Mrs. Pritchard in Jane Shore ; but every Court is neither so pious nor so gallant as to wear favours every time a virgin loses her vestality.

I am charmed with what you say, that much will be said that she does deserve and more that she does not. One may always venture to bet that the world's ill-nature will out-do anybody's ill-deeds ; and I am persuaded that Nero and Caesar Borgia will, as well as Richard III., come out much better characters at the Day of Judgment, and that the pious and grave will be the chief losers at that solemnity.

 I have not yet heard the Duke and Duchess's will. She moved to town with the pace of an interment, and made as many halts between Bath and London as Queen Eleanor's corpse. I hope, for mercy, she will not send for me to write verses on all the crosses she shall erect where she and the horses stopped to weep ; but I am in a panic, for I hear my poor lines at Ampthill are already in the papers.

Her black crape veil, they say, contained a thousand more yards than that of Mousseline la Serciuse, and at one of the inns where her grief baited she was in too great an agony to descend at the door, and was slung into a bow-window, as Mark Antony was into Cleopatra's monument. . . . The duchess is a miracle of moderation ! She has only taken the whole real estate for her own life, and the personal estate for ever.

 Evelyn Medows is totally disinherited. The whole real estate, after Andromache, the duke gives to the next brother (who took Hermione), and, in failure of his heirs, to his three brothers in succession ; and, in default of issue thence, to the Duke of Newcastle's second son, Lord Thomas Clinton.

Wortley Montagu gets an estate of 1,200 a year that was settled on him. There are small legacies to the amount of 1,200, and Mr. Brand is not mentioned. Still, the most curious part I am yet to learn : my letters do not tell me what stylc y as the heralds call it, he has proclaimed his heiress."

Evelyn Medows was the next of kin and the one who felt the effects of the duke's will most keenly.
He was the eldest son of Philip Medows by Lady Frances Pierrepont, sister of the late Duke of Kingston.

His " next brother " was Captain Charles Medows, who took the name of Pierrepont in 1778 when he
succeeded to the duke's estates and was created Viscount Newark in 1796 and Earl Manvers in 1806. The Lord Thomas Pelham-Clinton mentioned was second son of the second Duke of Newcastle, whom he succeeded in 1794, and Mr. Thomas Brand was the duke's uncle by marriage.

A week later Walpole returns to the charge : " I cannot yet tell you positively, Madam, whether the
Duke of Kingston has indited the duchess by all heraliases or not. I believe so, positively, for two days, but I heard to-night that the will was made before they were married.

I will not swear to this, nor to what I heard farther, that her first husband has been seen coming out of her house since she arrived. I do not mean his ghost, for the first husband is not dead, though the second is. I hope it is true, and that Augustus Hervey will be as like Cato as two peas, and take his Portia again after the loan of her."

The will

The Hon. Mrs. Boscawen contributes her mite of gossip to the general fund thus : " The Duke of
Newcastle had the custody of the D. of K.'s will, but the Dss was so ill (of grief) that she cou'd not bear to have it open'd !

At length the D. of N. said he cou'd wait no longer and appointed last Friday for Mr. Medows to meet him at Kingston (alias Chudleigh House). He went ; his sons remain'd at the outside of the gate walking to and fro with their cousin, Spencer Boscawen, for whom this account came (I think, too, Mr. Brand was at the opening of the will) ;

Mr. Medows (the father) came out but cou'd not speak for tears.

 His eldest son, Mr. Evelyn Medows, is totally disinherited, and is cut off with S left him in a codicil. Boscawen could not be positive in this circumstance. Mr. Eve. Medows express'd no concern
at his disappointment : his father was excessively affected."

The will was executed on the fifth day of July 1770, and the following are the extracts which relate to the duchess : " I do by this will ratify and confirm a settlement, which I made of the annual sum, or yearly rent charge, of four thousand pounds, on my wife, Elizabeth, Duchess of Kingston ; and that the said sum should be unto and to the use of the said Elizabeth, Duchess of Kingston, my wife, and her assigns, for and during the term of her natural life, in case she so long continues my widow, and unmarried, and no longer.

And my said wife shall be permitted during her widowhood, to receive and take the whole yearly rents, and profits, of all the manors,lands, and hereditaments, before devised, if full satisfaction, recompence and discharge of and for so much of the said annual sum, or yearly rent charge of four thousand pounds, as shall grow due during her widowhood, but in case my said wife shall determine her widowhood during her life, then I shall give and devise the same to Charles Medows, second son of Phillip Medows.

" Also I give and bequeath to my said wife, Elizabeth, Duchess of Kingston, all my furniture, pictures, plate, jewels, china, arrears of rent, and all other my effects, and personal estate, of what nature or kind soever, for her own proper use absolutely, and as and for her own goods, chattels and effects for evermore"

It is not unwelcome, after the ill-nature of the letter-writers, to read the sober account of the
 proceedings given in 'The London Chronicle of October 1 9th : " On Tuesday were interred in the family vault at Holme Pierrepont, in Nottinghamshire, the remains of his Grace the Duke of Kingston.

The procession from Bath which set out on Wednesday last was as follows : Six mutes. A coach with four clergymen. The Coronet and cushion, carried on the state-horse by the Duke's Gentleman, attended by two Grooms and two Pages. The plume of feathers. The hearse. Six bearers on horseback. The coach with his Grace's stewards as Mourners. Ditto with the Duke's servants as Mourners. A coach with his Tenants.

Another ditto. The Duke's tradesmen on horseback, 36 in number. Thirty-two men bearing truncheons, viz. : four to each coach, and eight to the hearse, which was richly ornamented with escutcheons of his Grace's arms, and upon each coach a Ducal Coronet. The coaches were drawn by six horses each.

The coffin is covered with crimson velvet, and on the breast-plate his Grace's titles are thus inscribed :
'The Most High, Mighty, and Most Noble Prince Evelyn Pierrepont, Duke of Kingston upon Hull,
Marquis of Dorchester, Earl of Kingston upon Hull, Viscount Newark, Baron Pierrepont of Holme Pierrepont, Knight of the Most Noble order of the Garter, and General in His Majesty's Army, Died the 23rd day of September 1773. Aged 61 years

.' The corpse lay in state at the principal inns at every stage on the road ; and was met on the borders of the county and attended by vast numbers of Gentlemen, etc., to shew their respect to so valuable a man."

Whitehead has left an account of his share in the funeral, not forgetting to air a grievance in his
customary manner and complaining that the duchess furnished him with no mourning, and would not pay his travelling expenses, together with collateral damages to recompense him for the " loss of my business."

He says : " After the duke's death, the duchess sent for me, and asked me to accompany his funeral as one of the chief mourners, Mr. Poynter being the other, who met us at Loughborough, near Nottingham, on his way from London to Holme Pierrepoint.

The next day we arrived at Bunny, where, resting to arrange some matters a short time, we again departed for Holme Pierrepoint, within four miles of which we were met by the Duke of Newcastle (an intimate friend of his late grace) and about a hundred more noblemen and gentlemen of his particular acquaintance ; upwards of fifty carriages, with three times the number of horsemen, the foot people lining the road all the way with men, women, and children an incredible number. I have never saw so many on such an occasion, either before or since.

After a little refreshment at Holme Pierrepoint, the process began. As the house joined the churchyard, they had not far to walk. When the corps was deposited in the vault with his ancestors, the Duke of Newcastle pressed my shoulder, saying,

* Whitehead, this is a sorry meeting : you have lost a good friend, and I an agreeable companion.'

Being desired by the duchess herself to attend the funeral, I made no doubt of her grace's reimbursement for the expenses of putting myself in mourning, and other necessaries for the journey ; together with the loss of my business.

However, I never got a sixpence or thanks for my trouble. I wrote several times to the duchess, but never could obtain an answer.

 I likewise sent a letter to France, directed to Captain Evelyn Meadows, who was then the greatest favourite with her grace (the duchess doing nothing without first consulting him), but this application was equally unsuccessful as the former ones.

Perhaps the conscience of the duchess reproached her for the injury she did the captain, in setting the duke against him, and persuading his grace to leave his estate from him ; he being the next heir at law, if the duke had died without a will.

He was the eldest son of Lady Frances Meadows, the duke's eldest sister ; whom, during the whole time that I lived with his grace, he never saw.

 Mr. Meadows, Mr. Charles Meadows, now Mr. Pierrepoint, General Meadows, who is now in the West Indies, and two other brothers, were permitted to see the duke within four years of his marriage but the porter had particular orders never to let in the captain on any account whatever.

I have been informed (but one cannot vouch for the truth of the story) that Captain Evelyn had disobliged Miss Chudleigh, by using ill some young lady of her acquaintance, whom he paid his addresses to.

I never heard the reason of his grace's dislike to his sister, and her husband, or the other three sons ; but find it continued till his death.

The first time the duchess sent for Captain Evelyn to France she dispatched a favourite servant whom she first took as a chairman into her service, but soon promoted him to be her footman and chief confidant, till her marriage with the duke, when he was made butler in the room of Mr. Fozard, who resigned.

 This person, whose name was Williams, was to wait on the captain and bring him to France in her yacht, that waited at Dover for that purpose ; but the Captain then rejected her offer, and would not go. This I had from Mr. Williams' own mouth afterwards at Bath." Whitehead adds a little item of information respecting the duke's will, which is very likely to be true :

" I must remark that the wary duchess, foreseeing what might be the consequence of the duke's death should she survive him, had caused him to write every word of the will relating to herself with his own hand"

Elizabeth's position in court and aristocratic circles after the death of the duke was embarrassing and
uncomfortable. The general opinion was that she had coerced the duke into making a will in her favour, but direct evidence of this is wanting, and, looking at the matter apart from personal feeling, it does not seem extraordinary that his grace should have left her his wealth voluntarily.

The duke was evidently at variance with the next heir, Evelyn Medows, and it was but natural he should show his affection for the duchess, who, if the truth could be ascertained, might, for the reasons already put forward, have devoted herself to him

 However, at the time no one would venture to take this line of argument ; the late duke's relations and friends were up in arms against her, and Elizabeth's own supporters held aloof. She had been absent from the Court more than four years, and had lost touch with many with whom she had been closely associated.

She saw plainly enough that to remain in England was but to court snubs and insults. It is true that, with an income of nearly 20,000 a year, the enjoyment of the duke's landed property for life, and his personalty hers absolutely, she could" afford to be indifferent to gibes and innuendoes ; but her spirit was too high to permit her to remain in the cold shade of neglect, and she determined to seek new worlds to conquer.

Mrs. Delany's pen is not idle on the subject. She gives her friend, Mrs. Port, a sprightly piece of gossip, dashed with pious moralising, in the following : " Everybody gapeing for the Duke of Kingston's will 4,000 a year he settled on her at his marriage (if such it may be allowed) ; her widow'd grace fell into fits at every turn on the road from Bath : true affection and gratitude surely cannot inhabit such a breast ? "

The Dowager-Countess of Gower is also full of the burning topic. She writes to Mrs. Delany : " The
Dss of K ! (alias Mrs. H.) must have been struck with a whim for ye D to apear a Grand Seignior before he died. She and her six women attending with all humility gives me an idea of a seraglio.

With all her ceremony, ye water must have lost its vertue before it reached ye D."

The water alluded to by the Countess was from the river Jordan. At one time this water was used for the royal christenings ; for what purpose it was employed in connection with the duke we are left in doubt. Probably it was intended for washing the corpse ; but if so it is difficult to believe it could have arrived in time.

While she was visiting Rome shortly after Kingston’s passing, Hervey came into his earldom, making her (at least legally) Countess of Bristol.

Whilst she was amusing herself in Italy something happened in England that was destined to materially spoil her happiness. 

Anne Craddock was still alive, the sole witness of her marriage that survived. She was in bad circumstances, and applied to Mr. Field for pecuniary relief. He refused it, but the Duchess sent to offer her twenty guineas per annum. 

This Anne Craddock refused, and gave intimation to Mr. Evelyn Meadows that she had information of importance which she could divulge.

On hearing Anne's story that the Duchess was already married when she married his uncle, the duke's nephew and heir, Evelyn Medows, immediately disputed the will, and on the evidence of her former servant had her indicted for bigamy.

Disputing his brother-in-law's will - Philip Medows

E.Medows (1736-1826); (2) Charles (ante vi.45- n. 9); (3) William (1739-1813), K.B.,1792; army officer and afterwards governor of Bombay and of Madras; (4) EdwardMedows (d. 1813), Capt., R.N., 1771; and(5) Thomas Medows (ca 1749-80)

 (OSSORYi. 149, nn. 30, 35).

14. T o Augustus John Hervey in 1744.

The suit against her 'by the name of Elizabeth Hervey, wife of Augustus JohnHervey,' disputing the Duke of Kingston'swill (probated Oct. 1773) was filed by Philip Medows, in right of his wife,Lady Frances, the Duke's sister. The Duke had disinherited his eldest nephew,Evelyn Philip Medows (Trial of Elizabeth Duchess Dowager of Kingston for Bigamy,

1776 [Bathurst], pp. 142-3), and left all his estates (of about £16,000 a year) to the Duchess during widowhood, with limitations over to Charles (the second nephew), to Lady Frances for life, and
remainder to Charles's heirs in tail male and the three younger nephews.

Philip Medows sued on the grounds that the devise in the will of the personal estate to the Duchess, as the Duke's wife 'was founded in fraud committed by the defendant in imposing herself upon the
Duke as a single woman.' 


By that time in Rome, where she more or less decorously captivated the intelligent but weak Clement XIV and half the curia,

Alarmed, she wrote a letter to King George III asking him to intervene on her behalf, but he was busy dealing with those rebellious American colonies at the time.

The trial was a media circus, with tickets a most coveted commodity. Most of Elizabeth’s friends turned their backs on her, and she was portrayed as a calculating gold-digger who tricked a wealthy duke into a bigamous marriage.

Elizabeth hastened home, having demanded with menaces (by brandishing a pistol) the necessary funds from a reluctant English banker there.

The law took its ponderous course until in April 1776, as a peer (Hervey had lately become third earl of Bristol), she was tried before her fellow peers in Westminster Hall. She defended herself by putting the blame on her lawyers and others, including the princess dowager.

Elizabeth Chudleigh, Duchess of Kingston, attending her trial for bigamy. Etching by John Hamilton Mortimer, 1776

The trial was the talk of the town, attended by all and sundry including Royalty, tickets were sold for those wishing to attend.

Engraving of the trial of the Duchess of Kingston at Westminster Hall

The Lords believed not a word of this defence, and all 119 of them declared her guilty.

She evaded the clerical punishment of being branded on the hand, and escaped in an open boat to Calais before the Medows family could legally prevent her from leaving the country. She never returned to Britain.

Mr. Meadows had carried his first point; she could no longer call herself Dowager Duchess of Kingston in England, but she was reinstated in her position of wife to Augustus John Hervey, and was therefore now Countess of Bristol.

Mr. Meadows next proceeded to attack the will of the late Duke, but in this attempt he utterly failed.

Elizabeth then discovered the hard way that possession of a substantial fortune, yielding her some £20,000 a year, rarely brought enduring contentment. She became so restless, irritable, and moody that she had no close friend with any regard for her. A poor judge of character, she attracted a dubious clutch of hangers-on. After various misadventures in Calais, in 1777 she departed for St Petersburg in a frigate which she had bought and fitted up.

At St Petersburg she was welcomed warmly by Empress Catherine the Great, who paid for her vessel to be repaired in the royal dockyard when it was damaged in a storm. Elizabeth soon tired of her company and of the monotonous court life. Earlier, while visiting the elector of Saxony, she had met the very wealthy Prince Karl Stanislaw Radziwill (1734–1790), who strove to woo her with the most lavish gifts and showy spectacles; yet after a particularly expensive fireworks display, she remarked, ‘He may fire as much as he pleases, but he shall not hit my mark’ (Annual Register, 30, 1788, 48).

Instead, she became involved with a mysterious stranger named Worta, who claimed to be an Albanian prince with the highest connections and played on her thirst for flattery. Having wheedled large sums of money out of her, he was unmasked as a swindler and arrested for forgery in Holland, where he took poison.

While in Russia, Elizabeth bought an estate, which she named Chudleigh, near St Petersburg. There she set up a vodka distillery. She then moved to France, leaving the distillery to a young English carpenter, no doubt for services rendered.

In France she purchased a mansion at Montmartre, and a 300-bedroomed estate at St Assise, just outside Paris, for £50,000 from the comte de Provence, later Louis XVIII. A civil suit arose over the Montmartre house; on hearing that she had lost the case, she threw such a hysterical tantrum that she burst an internal blood vessel.

On the following day, 26 August 1788, she died suddenly in Paris. She was buried in Pierrepont, the ancestral village of the dukes of Kingston in the Île-de-France, making a point about her marriage to the duke to the last.

William Pulteney (Lord Bath) had attempted to make Elizabeth, while still young, improve herself by study, but failed irremediably. Constant attention by men, and the presents showered on her, gave her ill-stocked mind full scope to live for the moment and strive for sensation. Her apogee was to be the star of a Westminster Hall spectacular. Her very lengthy and detailed will reveals how obsessed she was with possessions. Few mourned her; as a biographer put it, ‘she would have been a terrible old woman’

But she did become the star of Westminster, perhaps for all the wrong reasons!

Was it a touch of final malice or of real regret that caused the old lady, by codicil to her will dated May 10, 1787, to leave pearl earrings and necklace to the Marquise de la Touche? Was it a token that she forgave her the cruel book, "Les aventures trop amoureuses; ou, Elizabeth Chudleigh," which she wrote, or caused to be written, for the blackening of her rival, and the whitewashing of herself? Let us hope it was so. The proviso in the Duke's will saved her from herself; but for that she would have married an adventurer who called himself the Chevalier de Wortha, a man who obtained great influence over her, and finally died by his own hand.


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