Romance behind the tale of Richmond
A love story linked to one of the grandest balls in the history of the1800s, the Battle of Waterloo, a handsome British army general and beautiful young lady, all led to the naming of the little Karoo village of Richmond. Established in 1843 the town was named in 1845* (see end Note 1) in honour of Charles Lennox, the 4th Duke of Richmond, but behind just how a Scottish peer’s name was bestowed on a faraway South African village lies a rich, romantic tale. During his lifetime Charles served as a soldier, politician, member of parliament, Lord Lieutenant for Ireland and Governor General of British North America. He was also the father of Lady Sarah, the second wife of Sir Peregrine Maitland, who was governor of the Cape Colony from March 18, 1844, to January 27, 1847.
Born on December 9, 1764 he was the only son of General Lord George Lennox and Lady Louisa Kerr, daughter of William Kerr, 4th Marquess of Lothian. Charles, joined the Coldstream Guards at the age of 23 in 1797. He tried to get into active service, but was not successful, so had little opportunity to show his prowess as a soldier. He served briefly in Martinique. His aggressive streak often landed him in trouble and he was dismissed for insubordination in Gibraltar. He fought two major duels. The first took place on May 26, 1789, when he challenged his commanding officer, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, second son of George III, after overhearing the Duke make a disparaging remark about the Lennox family. Charles’s shot only grazed the Duke’s locks and, in an act of condescension, which infuriated Charles, the Duke chose not to fire. He invited Charles to take a second shot. This was mortifying and made Charles the butt of many jokes.
The second duel took place about a month later when he challenged pamphleteer Theophilus Swift for criticising him in print. This time his aim was better and he hit Theophilus who was fortunately only slightly wounded. Considering discretion the better part of valour, Charles left the Coldstream Guards and went to Edinburgh as the Lieutenant-Colonel of the 35th Foot. He inherited the title on December 29, 1806, on the death of his uncle and also became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. His secretary was Irish-born Arthur Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington, one of 19-century Britain’s the leading military and political figures and twice prime minister of England.
Charles was a convivial, outgoing, gregarious man. He was an affable, talented, had polished manners, a good understanding, sound judgement and, at times, keen sense of humor. Most people considered him to be “engaging”, and “a distinguished, illustrious nobleman of unshaken fortitude and with true Christian spirit”, however, a family friend, Lady Caroline Capel, said he was “the most gloomy and melancholy person” she had ever met. She added that he was a heavy drinker with a dissolute personality and that he liked to smoke and carouse until 3 or 4 in the morning. This made him very popular with his soldiers as did his lavish parties in Ireland. He was good sportsman. He enjoyed tennis, horseracing and cricket. He was an accomplished right-hand bat, noted wicket keeper – despite the fact that he had trouble with his eyes - and founder member of Marylebone Cricket Club.
He married Charlotte, daughter of the 4th Duke of Gordon, within seven weeks of meeting her. She by all accounts was a very snobbish person, excessively proud and disdainful of people of inferior rank. A domineering person, she was given to piques, rages, furious fits of temper; and blew hot and cold according to her mood. Her son’s tutor hailed her as one of the sourest persons I have ever had the displeasure to meet – a most haughty, disagreeable, jealous woman, Her penchant for gambling and gaming. almost crippled her husband. Charles fed Charlotte’s jealousy by having a lengthy affair with Augusta Everitt (Lady Edward Somerset) and made no attempt to hide this. In time he became financially embarrassed and in 1814 he relocated to Brussels with his whole family to evade his creditors. The Richmonds were well remembered in Belgium for a lavish, glittering, glamourous ball given by Charlotte on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo.
It was on that night that Sarah, the fourth child and second daughter, among their14 children met the love of her life. She was one of the beauties of her day and her father had high hopes that she would “make a good marriage” – to begin with he did not consider this to be it.
The magic began on June 15, 1815. War was imminent and British, Belgian, Dutch and German troops, ready to confront Napoleon had gathered in Brussels under the command of Wellington, who had risen to Field Marshall and commander of the allied forces. Ever the social climber Charlotte decided to show off her social standing, as Wellington was a family friend, and to host a lavish ball for the Allied officers .It was a memorable event held on the night before the Battle of Quatre Bras, just three days before Napoleon, led 72,000 troops against 68,000-men of the British army, to a field near the village of Waterloo,13 km south of Brussels. The British victory that day immortalised Wellington, who became one of the greatest generals in British history and nicknamed the Iron Duke. Napoleon fled from the battlefield in tears. That fateful day marked the end of his reign, his banishment to St Helena and also the end of French domination in Europe.
The ball was said to be the most extravagant, glamorous and glittering social occasion of its kind in the history of the time. Wellington’s presence in Brussels was a highlight of the social season, so over 200 guests were invited. They included all of Belgium's elite, powerful friends and relations, the cream of the crop of foreigners and every high-ranking military man in the capital at the time. She hoped the ball would be a “merry night of diversion for the nobility, the gallant officers of the Allied army and a delight for mothers with marriageable daughters”.
Reverend George Griffin Stonestreet, a contemporary commentator, on English society season in Brussels, sneered at the occasion. He called the British aristocracy “cold, calculating and unfeeling, yet salacious and hot blooded”. They were overly concerned with social decorum, he said, yet flung themselves into a wild abandon of public indecency. “They practise severe etiquette, women greet each other with a kiss on each cheek, then sit down stiff as waxworks. They begin to dance with perfect decorum, then go on to dangerous waltzes and finish with indecently violent romps." (The waltz, introduced in Austria, was a new dance decried by The Times as being “dangerous an obscene”. The newspaper warned every parent to guard against their daughters experiencing such “fatal contagion” and close familiar physical contact.
On the day of the ball an infectious, breathless, excitement swirled through the social circles of the city. Even the threat of French forces on their doorstep could not dampen the mood. Most were accustomed to living with the threat of war and to seizing every pleasure whenever they could. At around 22:00 the sound of horse’s hooves and carriage wheels clattering across cobbles signalled the arrival of the guests. The huge room slowly filled, the orchestra struck up, and the festivities began amid the usual whispers, gossips, scandals and amusing moments. Lady Louisa, one of the Richmond daughters, remembered a display of Scottish reels, spirited Highland dancing and a sword dance performed by four sergeants of the 92nd regiment of Foot (later the Gordon Highlanders.) “My mother thought it would interest foreigners to see them, which it did.”
The Duke of Wellington and his intimate staff arrived between 23:00 and midnight. In this retinue were many dashing young officers, the cream of Britain's military men - within less than 72 hours about four in every ten would be dead or wounded Among them was the handsome, debonair and dashing. Major-General Peregrine Maitland, who that night lost his heart to Sarah, the 23-year old daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Richmond. His presence in the room had caused many a young lass’s heart to flutter, but he had eyes that evening only one - the beautiful, vivacious, sprightly, fun-loving, and exquisitely beautiful Sarah. She had a beautiful complexion, “a bloom upon her cheeks”, a pretty mouth, remarkably fine teeth and lustrous hair. From the moment he saw her Peregrine was smitten. It was a case of love at first sight because Sarah was equally smitten by him. As the evening progressed the two knew they were in love.
Suddenly the music, laughter and dancing, was interrupted by the arrival of Lieutenant Henry Webster. His entrance was dramatic. He rushed into the room, breathless and covered in mud. He had a message for Wellington. Napoleon was at the crossroads. Wellington ordered his men to depart and to join their regiments. Glowing pleasure-filled faces pleasure became pale and sombre The atmosphere in the room changed as the news spread. The orchestra valiantly tried to play on but there was no heart left for dancing. Bugles began to sound in the distance as men were summoned to their units. Wellington announced they were to march out at 03:00. Some lingered over their farewells for so long that they were unable to change and rode into battle in splendid evening dress. As Peregrine rode off at the head of the 1st Brigade of the Foot Guards, he promising Sarah he would return.
The coolness and composure of the Richmonds in such a trying situation on that fateful night was well rewarded. Wellington gave Charles Napoleon’s campaign chair, a banner, and his breakfast silver. Two years later the people of Brussels presented the Duchess with a china tea and coffee set painted with views of major battle sites at Waterloo and of officers in uniform.
When Peregrine returned there was only one person who he wanted to see . Their love flourished and within short Peregrine asked for Sarah’s hand in marriage. but, father refused his blessings. Peregrine had been a widower since 1805 and had a ten-year old son. Charles also thought their age differences was too great - Peregrine was 38, she was 23 – and anyway he had high hopes of a much better, wealthier match for his beautiful daughter.
In the end parental disapproval was not an impediment. Peregrine and Sarah simply eloped to Paris and raced to the Duke of Wellington’s quarters where they were married on October 9, 1815. Her father, was enraged, but after a while settled down and there was no lingering hostility. Many said that this was because of Wellington’s intervention. He supported the match which turned out to be happy and politically advantageous to Peregrine. His career and social status advanced with the beautiful, gracious, graceful, elegant Sarah at his side. She was a perfect hostess and supported everything he wanted to do.
When Charles was appointed Governor-in-Chief of British North America, he appointed Peregrine as Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada. Sarah spent ten years in Ontario where the townships of Tiny, Tay and Flos were said to be named after her pet dogs. Peregrine’s esteem for his father-in-law was proved when he came to South Africa as Governor of the Colony. When the little farming community around the Ongers River acquired a portion of P J van der Merwe’s farm Driefontein to established a town. they approached the Governor for permission to name it in his honour. He declined and suggested that they name it Richmond in honour of his father-in-law. This was officially done in 1848.
A curious tale surrounds Charles Lennox, the 4th Duke of Richmond. He was born in a barn and he died in a barn. Born in Scotland, on September 9, 1764, he was the son of Lord George and Lady Louisa (Kerr) Lennox . She went into labour while they were on a fishing trip and this led to the baby being born unexpectedly in a barn. Then, many years later, during the summer of 1819, Charles died in a barn of what was said to be hydrophobia - the first reported case of human rabies in Canada. While on an extensive tour he was bitten on the hand by a rabid fox on June 28. The injury healed, but 60 days later, on August 24, it flared up again and he became seriously ill. In extreme agony he was carried to a barn on the farm of the Chapman family near the town of Richmond. which had been named in his honour. Official reports of this incident were written by Charles’s military secretary Major George Bowles and Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Cockburn, Deputy Quarter-Master General to the Forces and Inspector of Military Settlements in British North America. While over the years there has been controversy and speculation about Charles’s death, rabies is generally the accepted cause.
Charles had only been in Canada for 13 months when he died, but he had seen much more than any of his predecessors. His body was taken back to Quebec, where it was buried on September 4 from the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.
Born in Longparish, Hampshire, Peregine, was the eldest of five sons born to Thomas Maitland Lyndhurst and his wife, Jane, the daughter of Edward Mathew, a general of the Coldstream Guards. He entered the British Army at the age of 15 and served for most of his life as a soldier and colonial administrator. He too was a keen cricketer, associated with the Marylebone Cricket Club, Surrey and Hampshire. He was married twice: First on June 8, 1803, to Louisa, the daughter of Sir Edward Crofton, who gave birth to a son on May 1, 1804, but died the following year. Ten years later he married Sarah who produced seven children, one of whom, George, died in infancy
He was a popular, highly respected, well-mannered and widely liked gentleman, resolute and firm with an unassuming tone. He liked a simple lifestyle and some said that was because he was “extremely delicate in health”. Lord Dalhousie said he seemed to be “rapid in consumption.”. Reverend John Strachan, one of his political allies, described him as “most amiable and pious man, always anxious to do all the good he can.” Henry Scadding recalled him as “a tall, grave officer, always in military undress; his countenance ever wearing a mingled expression of sadness and benevolence.”
When in south Africa in 1844, he was well received by all elements of the colony’s society. Churchmen in particular were impressed by his Christian devoutness and humanitarian interests. However, by 1846 he seemed to have become incapable of dealing effectively with the difficult problems relating to the indigenous populations and the Boers on the frontiers. Lord Grey, the colonial secretary, said he had “never been a man of any great ability” and should have been retired. James Stephen, the colonial under-secretary, said Peregrine’s administrative weakness had been masked by the efficiency of his secretary, who wrote most of his dispatches. By 1847 he was considered too old and ineffective and succeeded by Henry Pottinger. Peregrine and his family sailed on the ship Wellesley on February 23. Back in England he enjoyed his retirement and the esteem of all who knew him well. He died on May 30, 1854.