“The favourite child of Fortune”: more on Henry Hollis Bradford

Research often relies on serendipity, and I experienced that powerfully yesterday. I was in the National Library of Scotland, plugging a few research gaps, and called up a letter from 1817 written by John, 2nd Earl of Chatham, in the Walter Scott Papers. As far as I know, Chatham had no direct contact with Sir Walter Scott, although his wife’s sister (the Duchess of Buccleuch) was Scott’s patroness. I was curious to see what the letter was about.

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In fact it was one of several letters on the subject of the death of Sir Henry Hollis Bradford, who (if you will cast your minds back to a recent post of mine, as well as another on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog) had been one of Chatham’s aides-de-camp for many years. Bradford had served Chatham since about 1807 in the Eastern District, and followed him to Walcheren. Thereafter he pursued a distinguished career under Wellington in the Peninsula, and was seriously wounded during the Battle of Waterloo. Bradford died on 17 December 1816 in France at the age of 35.

I did a little digging on Bradford when I wrote my earlier blog post, but yesterday I learned a whole lot more about him and the circumstances of his Waterloo wound and death. It seems he was a friend of Sir Walter Scott, which is how all this correspondence survived in the first place, because his brother, General Sir Thomas Bradford, suggested Scott might want to compose the epitaph on Bradford’s tomb.[1]

I do not know the exact circumstances of Henry Bradford’s death, but it looks as though there was a bit of an attempt to connect it directly with his wound at Waterloo. Lieutenant-Colonel James Hunter Blair, Bradford’s friend, certainly thought so:

It is a consoling circumstance that … he [Bradford] lost his Life in the service of his Country & on an occasion when his Services were most distinguished. After having gone thro’ all the dangers of the 16th June, it became his duty as Q[uarter] M[aster] General to the Division of Guards, to direct & superintend the defences of Hugoumont [sic] which were so essential to the sucess of the eventful 18th … He was wounded towards the close of the Day on the 18th, at the moment of the general charge which repulsed the Imperial Guard.[2]

Sir Everard Home, from Wikimedia Commons

Sir Everard Home, from Wikimedia Commons

The surgeon Sir Everard Home, although he did not have a chance of inspecting the body, gave his opinion for the benefit of Bradford’s family:

[The ball] must have struck upon the side of the Vertebrae and recoiled upon the Spine of the Os Ilium where it was extracted on the 18th of June 1815 … An abcess took place on the Liver which came to the Skin[,] was opened[,] and healed.

These are all the intermediate circumstances. A fever came on yielding to no mode of treatment[.] Great despondency[,] irritability, wasting ensue[d], and the Patient die[d]. … My opinion is that all the most distressing Symptoms, the despondency, depression[,] emaciation[,] and the death which was the consequence of these Symptoms took place in consequence of the wound, by means of which the Spinal Marrow had been much irritated (although … no paralytic symptoms followed) that the brain and nervous System were disturbed beyond their bearing … Every thing possible was done, and … nothing could have saved him.[3]

It is of course possible that the wound had gone septic and killed him slowly over the course of several months; reading between the lines of the correspondence, however, Bradford seems not to have suffered overmuch physically from long-term effects, but was certainly strongly scarred mentally. Not, of course, an unnatural thing to happen, particularly as he seems to have had some damage to his spine.

Whatever the precise medical cause of death, Lieutenant-Colonel Blair was probably right that the cause of death was the Waterloo wound, one way or another, anyway. But the circumstances of the death were undeniably tragic, for Bradford had still been a comparatively young man. “Until his unexpected death he seemed the favourite child of Fortune,” Blair wrote. “… She had lavished on him every kind of favor, & he was not less remarkable on account of personal advantages[,] fascinating and best bred manners, than for a mind of dispositions which did him the highest honor & were an honor to the human race.”[2]

As for Chatham, he had remained close to his former aide long after their professional paths had diverged in the wake of Walcheren. As can be seen from my EHFA post, Bradford kept him regularly posted about his activities, and Chatham followed all his aides’ career paths with great interest. Lieutenant-Colonel Blair lost no time in informing Chatham of his former aide’s death, and Chatham wrote a letter of condolence that struck Blair was being of “a degree of regret & feeling most flattering to his memory”. He enclosed it for Sir Walter Scott’s reference, assuming Scott agreed to write Bradford’s epitaph:

Abington Hall, December 22 1816 [4]

Dear Sir,

Your Letter reached me this morning and I have in the first place to offer you my thanks for the kind and considerate manner in which you have executed the painful task imposed on you by Sir Thomas Bradford who has indeed done justice to my feelings towards his poor Brother, in thinking how severe an affliction the fatal event you had to communicate must prove to me.

In poor Bradford I have lost a most valuable and intimate Friend, for whom I had the sincerest affection, and whose progress through life I had followed with the most anxious interest, and it was ever a source to me of the truest gratification to find, how much both as a man and an Officer he was admired, esteemed and loved by all who knew him. Most sincerely indeed do I condole with all his family on this sad occasion, and on whom I fear this most heavy blow must have come rather unexpectedly.

I will not break in upon Sir Thomas Bradford in his present scene of distress with any Letter but as I shall be really anxious to know how he and all his Family are, I should be very much obliged to you to give me one line to say how you left them. I regret extremely that being absent from Town, I shall be deprived of the pleasure of seeing you, when you were so good to call in Hill Street, and I should have derived a melancholy satisfaction, in hearing from you every particular you could give me respecting the fate of my poor departed friend.

I remain my dear Sir

Your very faithful humble Servant,

Chatham [5]

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I do not know whether Scott composed the epitaph for Bradford or not, but since the correspondence is preserved among his papers, I gather he probably did. The epitaph reads:

To the memory of Sir Henry Hollis Bradford, Knight Commander of the most honorable Military Order of the Bath, and Lieutenant Colonel of the First of Grenadier Regiment of Foot Guards, This Monument is erected by his companions in arms, the witnesses of his valor, and sharers of his social hours. He died at La Vacherie, near Lilliers in France, on the 17th of December 1816, in the 36th year of his age; and was buried in this Church-Yard.

It isn’t much, but it is eloquent in its simplicity. I’d like to think Scott wrote it, and that Chatham’s regret helped shape the sentiments of it.

References

[1] Sir Thomas Bradford to James Hunter Blair, 28 February 1817, National Library of Scotland Scott MSS Ms 3888 f 32

[2] James Hunter Blair to [?], [February] 1817, National Library of Scotland Scott MSS Ms 3888 f 35

[3] Sir Everard Home’s opinion, 18 February 1817, National Library of Scotland Scott MSS Ms 3888 f 29

[4] The copy of the letter reads 1817, but since the correspondence dates from February 1817 that cannot be correct

[5] Lord Chatham to Lieutenant-Colonel Blair, 22 December 1816, National Library of Scotland Scott MSS Ms 3888 f 31

“Upon my Honor”: the 2nd Earl of Chatham’s Pedigree

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On Tuesday I was lucky enough to have the opportunity of visiting the Parliamentary Archives. My research purpose was to check out the Proxy Books covering the House of Lords career of the 2nd Earl of Chatham (1778 – 1835), but since I was on the spot I decided to order up Chatham’s official House of Lords Pedigree as well.

Courtesy of Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/JO/22/1/3 f 42

Chatham’s pedigree (Courtesy of Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/JO/22/1/3 f 42)

The practice of delivering Pedigrees when a new peer took his seat in Parliament dates back to a House Standing Order of 11 May 1767, designed to put an end to succession disputes and confusion over descent. The practice of record-keeping by the Office of Heralds had lapsed over the centuries, and the importance of tracing accurate lineage was increased by the fact the House of Lords was both a political and a legal institution.[1]

The Standing Order required “that Garter King of Arms do officially attend this House upon the day and at the time of the first admission of every Peer, whether by creation or descent, and that he do then and there deliver in at the table a Pedigree of the Family of such Peer, fairly described on vellum”, covering the peer’s parents, siblings, spouses, children, and so on, “according to seniority, down to the day on which such Pedigree shall be so delivered in”. Each peer was permitted to prove his Pedigree before the Committee of Privileges, and a copy of the Pedigree would be kept with the Records of the House of Lords and the Office of Arms.[2]

I was hoping to settle a point that has been bothering me for a long time. A few days ago I blogged for Chatham’s birthday, and explained my reasons for believing him to have been be born on 10 October 1756. His father wrote several letters on that date announcing his birth, and when he was baptised on 7 November, the 10th October was recorded as his date of birth. However, his family celebrated his 17th birthday on 9 October 1773, and nearly everyone since has followed that lead.

I therefore hoped that seeing the Pedigree might help settle the issue, and I was not disappointed. It seems Chatham’s registered date of birth is incorrect: the date of birth he provided the House of Lords, and declared “to be true to the best of my knowledge Information and Belief, upon my Honor” was — 9 October 1756. This, to me, seems to be a clear-cut case. It does not matter if Chatham was actually born on the 9th, or 10th, October, or bang on midnight (which is the most likely explanation of what happened): he believed his birthday to fall on 9 October, and that’s good enough for me.

Courtesy of Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/JO/22/1/3 f 42

Chatham’s declaration (Courtesy of Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/JO/22/1/3 f 42)

If that was all, this post would be much shorter than it is. But I was so utterly breathtaken by the sheer beauty of the thing laid before me on the desk that I felt moved to purchase a photograph licence, and then to request permission to reproduce the images on this blog (graciously granted).

The Pedigree, on fine vellum as required by the 1767 Standing Order, was bound in tooled leather with fifty others spanning the period 1784-91. I am not kidding when I tell you it took both my strength and that of one of the archivists to wrestle it out of the box and onto the table.

Courtesy of Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/JO/22/1/3 f 42

With silk cords and gold tassels (Courtesy of Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/JO/22/1/3 f 42)

And truly, these photographs do not do it justice. The whole thing — every one of the fifty-one pedigrees in the box — was painted and written by hand. (They cost £20 to draw up, not an inconsiderable sum.) There was shiny gold leaf. There was calligraphy. There was — beauty. There is no other word for it.

Here is Chatham’s crest, complete with Garter.

Courtesy of Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/JO/22/1/3 f 42

Courtesy of Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/JO/22/1/3 f 42

The photograph does not really show the gold leaf on the Earl’s coronet and Garter, which frankly elevated this from “gorgeous” to “stunning”, in my opinion.

But what totally melted me was the combined Chatham/Townshend crest to represent any future offspring of Chatham’s marriage to Mary Elizabeth Townshend (there wouldn’t be any, of course, but since Mary was only 28 in March 1791, nobody could have known that):

Courtesy of Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/JO/22/1/3 f 42

Courtesy of Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/JO/22/1/3 f 42

The other Pedigrees in the book were equally beautiful, but as this was the one I wanted to see, I spent a good long while examining it and just drinking it in. I do not think I have been so entranced by a historical document for a long time.

Beautiful — just beautiful. I’m so glad I’m able to share it.

References

The Earl of Chatham’s Pedigree (endorsed 11 May 1791) is in the Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/JO/22/1/3 f 42. All photographs used here were taken by me and reproduced with kind permission of the Parliamentary Archives.

[1] William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England III, 11th edn (London, 1791), pp. 105-6

[2] John Palmer, The Practice in the House of Lords of Appeals, Writs of Error, and Claims of Peerage … (London, 1830), pp. 341-3

Sherry, please: the contents of the 2nd Earl of Chatham’s cellars

One thing’s for sure about the Pitts: they liked a drink or six. It started with Pitt the Elder, and got worse with the next generation. The Younger Pitt was famous for knocking back several bottles a day (although said bottles were, obviously, smaller then than they are now… still). The 2nd Earl of Chatham’s drinking habits are less obvious, but there were telling habits of his being, to use an appropriately nautical expression, “three sheets to the wind” during office hours while First Lord of the Admiralty.

While Governor of Gibraltar he was famous for his hospitality, and it seems he acquired a taste for Spanish wines while there. (It seems appropriate that one of Gibaltar’s biggest modern wine distributors trades from offices in the “Chatham Counterguard”.) When Chatham died in September 1835, his executors brought in a high-society wine merchant, Charles Bertram, of 162 New Bond Street, to value the late Lord Chatham’s cellars in Charles Street.

This is what Bertram found:

Chatham's cellars, from National Archives PRO 30/8/370 ff 78, 147

Chatham’s cellars, from National Archives PRO 30/8/370 ff 78, 147

I should say right off that I am no wine expert myself. Far from it — I’m virtually teetotal and have been for fifteen years. However, just a glance at this list tells me two things: first, that Chatham had a lot of wine in his cellar for a nearly-eighty-year-old widower, and second, that he really, really, really did not care for French booze.

I think it’s fair to say Chatham had a sweet tooth. Most of the wine in his cellar seems to have been the variety served up as an aperitif or dessert wine. Sherry seems to account for the majority of it, in the largest quantities (sixteen dozen bottles, plus eight, of “Sherry Cadoza”, whatever that is — it seems to have something to do with the kind of cask, but I would be grateful if anyone could explain further).

One variety in Chatham’s cellars, Haurie, had a sterling pedigree: the Haurie brand claimed to be the oldest exporters of sherry, having been founded during the War of the Spanish Succession. 19th century wine specialist Henry Vizetelly described Haurie sherry as a wine “over which Steele may have become more light-hearted, Swift more morose, Bolingbroke more eloquent, and Addison more didactic”. It probably already had a high reputation by the time Chatham acquired his eighteen bottles, but twenty years after his death Haurie sherry brought back four first-class medals from the Jerez Exhibition.

In addition to sherry, Chatham also had a great deal of Madeira. Much of this seems to have been received as a gift from other people (“Sir J. Bouten”, Lord Melville, Sir Andrew Hammond — an old friend from Chatham’s days at the Admiralty — and Lord Powis, the son of the famous Clive of India). Possibly it was a case of the following:

Lord Powis: Lord Chatham, I’ve brought you a gift.

Chatham: More Madeira. How kind.

Powis: I know how much you like it.

Chatham: Can’t you just bring me sherry next time?

So far, so sweet (although some of the sherry, I guess, might have been of the dry variety). But I suspect very little of it was, given most of the rest of the cellars’ contents was pretty sweet too. Chatham certainly favoured the sweeter varieties of Madeira: “Malmsey”, for example, described in 1858 as “a luscious sweet wine … used principally as a liqueur, or at dessert”. (Malmsey wine was described by the same source as being “a strong astringent, and used against dysentery”, although I suspect Chatham did not really use it for medicinal purposes.)

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He also, however, seems to have been partial to Sercial, an “exceedingly rare” variety of Madeira described by Vizetelly as “somewhat spiritous” and known by Portuguese locals as “the dog strangler”. One source from the 1840s was, however, more appreciative: “This fabulous nectar, with its mellifluous flavour, has the pungent aroma of a posy of sweet-smelling flowers.” It seems this one is best left in the bottle for ten years or so. Possibly Chatham brought it back from Gibraltar with him, along with the three bottles of “Campanario” (another variety of Madeira from the west cliffs of the island near Funchal), although the age of the wines is not mentioned.

One wine he definitely did bring back from Gibraltar was the “Paxarete”, or “Pajarete”, a variety of sherry made in the Jerez region of Spain. This would, in 1835, have been at least ten years old, and maybe Chatham was saving it for a special occasion. Paxarete, again, was exceedingly sweet, exceedingly strong, and exceedingly expensive, although one website described it as “considered more of a ladies’ drink” in early 19th century Britain. I suspect Chatham would have disagreed.

So far Chatham’s cellars can be summarised as: sweet, and Spanish (or Portuguese). (The presence of “Malaga wine”, another super-sweet fortified Spanish wine, bears out this hypothesis.) There were some exceptions, however. Chatham had fifteen dozen pints of Constantia, a South African (!) wine from near Cape Town — unfortified, it seems, but renowned for its strength, and described by The Oxford Companion to Wine as “legendary”. (Napoleon, apparently, also drank it while imprisoned on St Helena.) And of course Chatham had a dozen or so bottles of Sancerre, a modest number of champagne bottles, and claret — surprisingly little of it, though, given his apparent love of it in the 1780s and 1790s.

Only one vintage is dated, however: “Bertram’s claret”, specifically named as “1822”. (He had two dozen bottles of it.) I can’t, however, work out if this was a particularly good year for claret, or whether it was the only wine Chatham had purchased directly from Charles Bertram, who compiled the inventory and may just have recognised his own bottles.

1822ricketts

Apart from wine, Chatham had a few bottles of liqueur: “Noyau”, a crème liqueur made from apricot (or peach) kernels (hence its name). Chatham had both varieties in his cellar: the clear (“blanc”, or white) and the “pink”. One magazine from the 1830s described it as “the queen of liqueurs”, although it vastly preferred the white to the pink — which was in any case coloured, generally with cochineal. Chatham apparently agreed, as he had nearly twice as much white Noyau as he did pink.

Apparently Noyeau tastes similar to amaretto, although I have had neither so cannot comment. It is also, apparently, dangerous to drink elderly Noyeau, as apricot kernels degrade into cyanide. I’m fairly sure Chatham died from natural causes, but now I’m wondering.

Apart from “Cadoza sherry”, the only other item in Chatham’s cellars I have not been able to identify is the mysterious “Pardarolli”. Possibly it was another liqueur, but I cannot be certain. I would be grateful to anyone who is able to inform me what it is.

Bertram estimated the total value of all the bottles in Chatham’s cellars at £559.19.0, which is a sizeable sum, particularly as Chatham’s house itself only brought his executors £3000 (once the mortgage had been cleared). His heirs clearly divided the cellars between them, but they did put a small portion of the wines up to auction at Christie’s on 16 May 1836. They fetched £155.4.10.

References

Bertram’s handlist of Chatham’s cellars can be found at the National Archives, Chatham MSS PRO 30/8/370 f 78 (dated 1 October 1835).

The Christie’s sales catalogue, giving the list of the bottles put to auction and the amounts they fetched, is at PRO 30/8/370 f 147.

Information on Charles Bertram from Richard Ford Manuscripts.

Information on the wines and liqueurs mentioned in this blog was drawn from:

  • Henry Vizetelly, Facts about Sherry, gleaned in the vineyards and bodegas of the Jerez, Seville, Moguer, & Montilla districts … (London, 1876)
  • Henry Vizetelly, Facts about Port and Madeira (London, 1880)
  • Julia Harding, The Oxford Companion to Wine (Oxford, 2015)
  • The Magazine of Domestic Economy volume II (1837)
  • Robert Hogg, The vegetable kingdom and its products (London, 1858)
  • Richard Mayson, Madeira: the islands and their wines (London, 2015)
  • “Whisky Science: Pajarete and the wine treatment”, 3 March 2013, from here
  • Wikipedia pages on Constantia, Noyau, Malaga wine, and Sancerre

10 October 1756: birth of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham

YES, 10 October. Yes. YES. No, it’s not a typo. Yes, I realise I am flying in the face of all other published sources, except Wikipedia (and there’s a good reason for that).

John, 2nd Earl of Chatham, in John Singleton Copley's "The Death of the Earl of Chatham" (1779)

John, 2nd Earl of Chatham, in John Singleton Copley’s “The Death of the Earl of Chatham” (1779)

Most people, when writing about someone less visible in the historical record, are at least able to say “Well, at least I know when he/she was born/died!” Unfortunately, my biography of the 2nd Earl of Chatham pretty much opens with a page-long footnote explaining why I have plumped for 10 October 1756 as his date of birth, and not the usually-recorded 9 October. (Some sources say 10 September, but, to misquote Monty Python, that’s right out.)

As far as I can see, there is one main reason why the sources focus on 9 October as Chatham’s birthday. It is a letter written by Pitt the Elder to Pitt the Younger on 9 October 1773, which opens with the following lines: “Thursday’s post brought us no letter from the dear traveller [Pitt was on his way to Cambridge]: we trust this day will prove more satisfactory. It is the happy day that gave us your brother…” [Chatham Correspondence IV, 290]

William Pitt the Elder by William Hoare

William Pitt the Elder by William Hoare

Well, that’s clear, isn’t it? Pitt the Elder should have known the date of birth of his own son, no?

Except we find Pitt the Elder writing to his brother-in-law, George Grenville, on 10 October 1756: “Dear Grenville, Lady Hester is as well as can be in her situation, after being delivered of a son this morning.” [Grenville Papers I, 173]

And also to his nephew, Thomas Pitt, later Lord Camelford, also on 10 October 1756: “Lady Hester was safely delivered this morning of a son.” [Letters written by Lord Chatham to his nephew Thomas Pitt (1804), p. 97]

Not to mention the fact that Chatham’s baptismal record in the parish register, entered on 7 November 1756, notes his date of birth as 10 October.

John, 2nd Earl of Chatham's baptismal record, Hayes, Kent

John, 2nd Earl of Chatham’s baptismal record, Hayes, Kent

So what happened? Why the discrepancy? I suppose the most likely possibility is that everything went so quickly (and Chatham’s birth was, apparently, very quick) that nobody troubled to take accurate note of his time of birth. Maybe the clocks in the room were fast. Maybe the midwife (or man midwife, as Chatham was delivered by William Hunter) made a mistake.

Clearly the family celebrated Chatham’s birthday on 9 October, although there could have been other reasons for this. In 1773, 10 October fell on a Sunday: possibly the family decided to celebrate a day early for that reason. I personally think this unlikely, however, as Pitt the Elder specifically says “THIS is the happy day that gave us your brother”. He could have misdated his letter, but this is unlikely, particularly as his son William replied a few days later making reference to “the rejoicings on the happy ninth of October”.

It seems most likely, therefore, that the family for some reason changed their minds about Chatham’s birthday and started celebrating it on 9 October. But he would not be the only 18th century figure surrounded with such confusion — the Duke of Wellington’s precise birthdate, for example, is also disputed.

This doesn’t make my task as biographer any easier, but I’ve plumped for 10 October rather than 9 October because Chatham’s baptismal record suggests that date. The entry was added on 7 November, nearly a full month after Chatham’s birth, so it seems most likely to me that any changes of mind occurred some time after his birth. I’ve therefore gone with the on-the-spot account, and shaved a day off the 2nd Lord Chatham’s age.

You may disagree with me, but I’m sticking to my guns.