Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

 
Random Quote
Random Date

 

HISTORY

HEROES AND VILLAINS

Sir John Conroy (1786-1854) - Childhood Nemesis of Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria was the illegitimate daughter of an Irishman. At least that is the sensational claim of A.N. Wilson, one of the most respected historians to specialize in the Victorian Age. Wilson maintains that Victoria was the love child of a romance between her German-born mother, the Duchess of Kent, and one of her father’s key advisors, Sir John Conroy. If Wilson’s assertion is true, the British Royal Family is directly descended from a Roscommon man.

The Young Victoria’ is a sumptuous 2009 epic, co-produced by the unlikely collaboration of Sarah Ferguson (former Duchess of York) and Martin Scorsese, with a script by the Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes. Starring vibrant English rose Emily Blunt as Queen Victoria, the film examines the turbulence of the monarch’s early life and the arranged marriage with her cousin Prince Albert, played by Keira Knightley’s present squeeze, Rupert Friend. Lurking behind the scenes is the villainous Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), who wields his wicked influence over the Queen’s widowed mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson). Having secured control of the Duchess, he now seeks to become the principle counsellor of the monarch-in-waiting. Indeed, if luck runs his way, the wily Roscommon man might even become Regent of the British Empire.

Queen Victoria was born on 24th May 1819. Just eight months later, both her father and grandfather, George III, were dead. When her decadent uncle duly ascended the throne as George IV, all eyes turned upon this small baby girl who had suddenly become third-in-line to the British throne.

Wilson claims it is ‘overwhelmingly probable’ that Conroy fathered the future Queen. Intriguing as it is, this allegation is frankly mischievous. There is no evidence for such a claim, although it is certainly possible that the Queen’s father, the Duke of Kent, was impotent and that his Duchess might have turned elsewhere to produce the desired heir. Whether Conroy and the Duchess were even lovers remains speculative; Victoria strongly denied it in later life. The Duke of Wellington maintained that Victoria’s revulsion for Conroy stemmed from her having witnessed ‘some familiarities’ between the two. When asked if they were lovers, the Iron Duke said he ‘supposed so’. The rumours that Conroy was Victoria’s father were also beginning to circulate at this time.

What cannot be doubted is the incredible power which Sir John held over the Duchess from the Duke’s death in 1820 through to Victoria’s accession - and Conroy’s dismissal - seventeen years later.

Sir John Conroy was the proud chief of a Connaught clan that claimed descent from the ancient Milesian house of O’Maolconai.[1] His forbears had been based in the Strokestown area of Co Roscommon at least since the time of St Patrick. Their adhesion to the Catholic faith during the religious wars of the 17th century saw them stripped of substantial lands, not least following the death in action of Captain Charles Conry at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. In 1747, Captain Conry’s nephew and eventual heir, John Conry, acquired a perpetual lease from the Bishop of Tuam on the Bettyfield estate near Shankhill, Co Roscommon.

When John Conry died in 1767, his 8-year-old son John Ponsonby Conroy succeeded. Young John studied at Trinity College Dublin before heading to London’s Lincoln’s Inn where he trained to become a barrister. In 1785, he married Margaret, daughter of Francis Vernon Wilson from the nearby parish of Tully, Co Longford.[2] John did not long enjoy his legal career, passing away in 1797 aged 36. He was buried in the graveyard of Saint Ann's Church on Dawson Street, Dublin, where a monument to his memory stands today.[3]

Although born in Wales in 1786, there can be little doubt that the combination of a Roscommon father and a Longford mother ensured Sir John Conroy spent a good deal of his childhood in Ireland.[4] He was the eldest in a family of five boys and a girl, becoming family head at the age of 10.[5] With the Napoleonic Wars raging across Europe, it is no surprise that, after he finished his schooling in Dublin, young Conroy joined the army. He entered the Royal Military College of Woolwich in 1803. Two years later, the 17-year-old obtained a commission in the Royal Horse Artillery.

In December 1808, Sir John married 17-year-old Elizabeth Fisher. Born in Quebec, Elizabeth was the somewhat indolent daughter and sole heiress of General Benjamin Fisher (1753-1814), a distinguished military engineer and artist of note. It seems likely Conroy met Miss Fisher while her father was stationed in Ireland. (It is certainly relevant that their firstborn son and heir, Edward, was born in Dublin in December 1809. A further five children would follow). It also seems Conroy was drawn to Miss Fisher by rumours circulating that she was a daughter of the aforementioned Duke of Kent (Queen Victoria’s father) who had, the story went, seduced Mrs Fisher while on army service in Quebec. Always eager to justify his aristocratic credentials, Conroy would do his utmost to keep this myth alive over the coming decades.

If Conroy thought marriage to a General’s daughter would speed his progress through the military ranks, he was to be disappointed.[6] However, in 1817, his wife was made Woman of the Bedchamber to the Duchess of Kent, the German-born mother of Queen Victoria. The following year, Conroy became personal equerry to the Duke of Kent.

Although Queen Victoria would die believing him to be an absolute gentleman, the Duke of Kent – created Earl of Dublin in 1899 - was a fearsome man whose sense of military discipline verged on psychotic. Nothing is yet known of Conroy’s relationship with this heavily indebted younger son of ‘Mad King George III’. But Conroy’s undisputed talent for organization came to fruition early on when he arranged for the transportation of the Duchess, pregnant with Victoria, from Coburg to London in the spring of 1819.

The following year, Sir John accompanied the Duke of Kent on a visit to his wife’s uncle, Bishop John Fisher, at Salisbury Cathedral.[7] The Bishop gave the Royal entourage a rain-drenched guided tour of the town, from which the Duke caught a bad cold that suddenly developed into a full-blown illness and left him dead on 23rd January. His father, George III, passed away just six days later.

Desperately in need of someone to guide her, the Duchess turned to her late husbands’ equerry much as her daughter would turn to Prince Albert’s ghillie, John Brown, 40 years later. Sir John Conroy was named as one of the two executors of the Duke of Kent’s will.[8] Ever the opportunist, the Roscommon man quickly ensured he became the vital life support to the widowed Duchess. When she contemplated returning to the quiet German princedom of Coburg where she grew up, Conroy reminded her that the British Royal Family seemed to be in a very precarious condition indeed and the chances of her daughter becoming Queen were better than middling.

Whether Conroy was really quite as nasty as posterity painted him remains open to question. Much of our knowledge of him comes from Victoria’s diaries, written at a time when she was under the influence of her beloved governess, Baroness Lehzen, who disliked Conroy intensely. There was also something of the, perhaps inevitable, distrust any young girl might have for a strange man who enters her life and takes over from where a deceased father left off. It cannot have helped that he even bore a passing resemblance to her father. A tall and good-looking man, Conroy was able to stamp his presence on a room with ease. He frequently silenced dinner parties by bursting into song. He was intelligent, vain, unscrupulous and deeply ambitious.

It is also notable that the other men in her life had no time for him. Her uncle King Leopold of Belgium described Conroy as a ‘Mephistopheles’.[9] Her mentor Lord Melbourne could not abide the man, while the diarist Charles Greville dismissed him as ‘a ridiculous fellow’. Prince Albert subsequently reinforced her opinion that Conroy was an out-and-out scoundrel who had soured her childhood for his own scheming ways.[10]

But for Conroy the most important person was the Duchess and so long as she introduced him as her ‘dear devoted friend’, he was secure. Captain Conroy quickly took control of this doubt-riddled and rather stout woman. By 1821, he was clearly the most influential player in her household at draughty Kensington Palace. He took charge of the Duchess’s finances and drafted all her correspondence. Aware that her spirited and passionate daughter might some day be Queen, he quickly converted Kensington into a mini-fortress making it almost impossible for anyone else to get in. At the time, Kensington was a small hamlet, cut off from London by a series of fields, country lanes and market gardens.

Vitoria’s solitary playmates were her half-brother, 12 years her senior, Prince Feodore of Leningen, and the Conroys’ daughters Jane and Victoire, with whom she frequently played during visits to the Conroy homes of Shooter’s Hill and, later, Campden Hill.[11] Otherwise it was just herself and her dolls. From 1833, she was besotted by a King Charles Spaniel called Dash, originally gifted by Conroy to the Duchess. (After her five-hour long Coronation in 1838, her first act was to run upstairs and give Dash a bath).

With the Duchess of Kent under his spell, Conroy then turned his attention on George IV’s reclusive sister Princess Sophia, who had an apartment at Kensington Palace. As a young lady she had disgraced the family by having an illegitimate son out of wedlock with one of her father’s equerries, General Garth. (Some believe that the father was actually her brother, the Duke of Cumberland). When the son attempted to bully Sophia, Conroy stepped into her defence. Mentally unstable and nine years Conroy’s senior, the Princess was soon putty in his hand. She gave him control of her finances, purchased him a house in Kensington for £4000 and a country villa in Berkshire called Aborfield Hall. She later gave him an estate in Wales valued at £18,000. As a final gesture of her gratitude, she wrote to the King, requesting that Captain Conroy be raised in the ranks. In August 1827, her adoring brother dutifully made Conroy a Knight Commander of the Hanoverian Guelphic Order.

However, whilst both the Duchess and Princess Sophia melted in his presence, Sir John Conroy was dismayed by the failure of his attempts to woo the Princess Victoria. His error was to treat her as a child, ruffling her hair, teasing her, mocking her, believing that some day she would find his jocularity entertaining and come around to him. On the contrary, her hatred for the swash-buckling Irishman only ever deepened with time. This hatred would wedge a bitter, lifelong gulf between mother and child.

Meanwhile, Conroy was taking steps to ensure Victoria would become completely dependent on her mother (who, he said, ‘lived in a mist’) and therefore on him. It was his ambition to present the young lady as ‘the Nation’s Hope, the People’s Queen’. In 1825, Conroy introduced what he called the Kensington System, a strict set of rules that would keep the Princess isolated from all outside influence. The ultimate aim was to make it impossible for Victoria to become Queen – an ever-increasing likelihood – without having her mother installed as Regent.

As such, she slept in her mother’s chamber, with her governess by her side until the Duchess came to bed. When going down stairs, she had to have someone hold her hand. She was never to be left alone in any room. She was prohibited from talking to visitors unless a third person was present. All other family members were kept at bay, particularly the Duke of Cumberland, her wicked uncle, who was likely to bump her off in order to get the throne himself. All women with undesirable connections were kept away, as were the illegitimate children of her uncle, the future William IV. Conroy took a note of every cough, every morsel of bread and butter consumed, every defiant stamp of the tiny royal foot.[12]

The only real scuffle occurred when Conroy tried, unsuccessfully, to oust Victoria’s beloved governess, Baroness Lehzen. For a long time, he had teased her about her provincial German habits, such as eating caraway seeds to control flatulence. For her part, the Baroness did nothing to quell the rumours that Conory and the Duchess were lovers.

At length, the Duchess received a letter from her sister-in-law, Adelaide, who would soon be Queen of England to William IV. Adelaide urged that the Duchess reconsider allowing a family of such low rank as the Conroys to be the exclusive ‘entourage and companions of the future Queen of England’. She implored the Duchess to put Conroy back in his box. When the Duchess ignored this advice, it set in motion a major fall out between the two women.

The rift intensified when, following the death of George IV in June 1830, his 65-year-old brother ascended the throne as William IV. The King’s niece, Princess Victoria was now heir apparent to the throne. When the 12-year-old girl digested the implications, she burst into tears. Conroy and her mother quickly pushed to extend their influence. Conroy wrote to the Duke of Wellington, now Prime Minister, urging that should Victoria succeed to the throne before her 18th birthday, the Duchess ought to be appointed Regent ‘without interference or delay’. Although both Wellington and William IV understood that this eventuality would have effectively left Conroy in control of the monarchy, they had little option but to sign into law the Regency Act of 1830. William IV, who detested Conroy, made it his business to stay alive just long enough for his niece to celebrate her 18th birthday and rule in her own right.

The Duchess and Conroy now began to act on their ambitions to make Victoria the ‘People’s Queen’. In contrast to her obese and embarrassing uncles, she offered a beacon of optimism to an England greatly confused by the dawn of the industrial age. So far, the only glimpses the public had of her were fleeting and enchanting – a bright and pretty girl riding a white donkey in Kensington gardens with ‘an old soldier, a former retainer of her fathers, leading her bridle rein’.[13]

In 1832, the couple took Victoria on the first of many self-promotional tours, staying with aristocrats around the country, opening hospitals, parks and porcelain works.[14] Conroy insisted that a Royal Salute be fired whenever they passed, an honour normally reserved for the monarch. This infuriated King William who was already dismayed by these cheeky ‘royal progresses’, as he dubbed them. He eventually outlawed all salutes unless it was the sovereign him or herself. The trips were nonetheless beneficial in that Victoria got to see the poverty and smog of industrialism first hand, but they did nothing to improve her opinion of Conroy.

As she lay in bed with severely infected tonsils in the autumn of 1835, she received a visit from the Duchess, Conroy and the sharp-tongued Lady Flora Hastings. They tried to persuade her to sign a promise that, on becoming Queen, she would appoint Sir John her Private Secretary. She resisted with notable stubbornness; that defiant trait would re-emerge again and again whenever any man tried to assert himself over her. She also managed a private conversation with Lord Liverpool during which she advised him as to Conroy’s angling, as well as his ‘many slights and incivilities’.[15] The kind-hearted Liverpool assured her she had behaved quite correctly and recommended she seek the confidence of Lord Melbourne, the man who would become her father figure in the ensuing decade.

As her uncles William IV and Leopold began to express open disdain for Conroy, Victoria became ever braver. With the King’s health failing and his control over Victoria evaporating, Conroy became desperate. ‘If the princess will not listen to reason’, wrote Conroy, ‘she must be coerced’. His last successful act was to coerce the Princess into rejecting the King’s offer of a £10,000 annual allowance to establish her own private household. ‘I wish to remain as I am now’, her pen reluctantly wrote, ‘in the care of my dear Mother’.

Meanwhile, Conroy had his own problems. In late May 1837, his son and heir Edward (1809-69) eloped to Gretna Green with 20-year-old Lady Alicia Parsons, second daughter of the 2nd Earl of Rosse. Although not an heiress, this daughter of Birr Castle had a substantial marriage portion of £16,000. Lady Rosse considered the marriage undesirable, Sir John being a noted ‘adventurer’ from up the way in Roscommon. But they were also aware that, with William IV’s declining health, it might only be a matter of days before they were toasting the health of ‘Sir John Conroy and the rest of the Conroyal family’. The couple were officially married a second time on 25 July 1837 in Kensington, by which time Conroy’s fall from grace was in motion.[16]

On 20 June 1837, three weeks after her 18th birthday, William died and Victoria became Queen. One of her first acts was to dismiss Conroy from her household. Ideally she would have sent him packing as Governor to some far-away disease riddled colony.[17] London was shocked. Conroy was known to have been a great friend of both the Duke and the Duchess of Kent. Hadn’t Victoria spent her childhood with his daughter Victoire? But there was also those who realised that the young Queen was simply fed up with the Irishman’s overbearing behaviour.[18] She would liked to have sacked him from her mothers side where he was still ‘Master of Horse’, but she was not yet able to do so.

Conroy saw it coming. On the very morning of William IV’s death, he handed Lord Melbourne a paper listing the sacrifices he had made on the Duchess’s behalf. He explained that he could not possibly retire unless he was given an annual pension of £30,000, a Grand Cross of the Order of Bath and an Irish peerage, preferably ‘Viscount of Elphin, Co Roscommon'. ‘This really is too bad!’ exclaimed Melbourne. ‘Have you ever heard such impudence?’ But Melbourne realised that if there was ever to be any peace between the Queen and her mother, he needed to appease Conroy. He conceded that an Irish peerage would be granted as soon as one became available but Conroy must leave Kensington. Conroy was not yet ready to leave.

A serious row erupted between the Queen and her mother when Victoria rejected a request by the Duchess to receive the Conroy’s at Court. She even refused to allow them, or Lady Flora, to attend the proclamation ceremony.[19] Hostilities peaked in 1839 when Lady Flora Hastings became the central figure of a scandal that rocked Victorian England. It appeared this ‘amiable and virtuous’ young lady had become pregnant. Victoria was amongst the first to believe that the father was no less a rogue than ‘that Monster & Devil Incarnate’ Sir John Conroy who had, apparently, seduced Flora in a steam-boat and again in a post-chaise while retuning from a Christmas with her mother at Loudon Castle in Scotland. Victoria cast a massive public slur on Flora, banning her from court. However, upon closer investigation, it transpired that Flora was not with child. She was, in fact, dying of cancer. When the backlash against the hot-headed Queen began, Conroy was amongst those who put the stick in. Meanwhile, Lord Melbourne and others decided that perhaps it was time the young Queen took a husband.

In 1839, as Lady Flora lay dying, The Times published a report that ‘a certain newly created baronet’ had purchased an estate in Wales with money that was not his. A major slander case ensued, in which Conroy was alleged to have intimidated witnesses into silence. The Duchess of Kent’s loyal equerry was increasingly isolated. When the Queen’s Coburg relations came to visit, they complained bitterly about how Conroy had sat amongst them, as if he were Royalty. At length, James Abercromby, Speaker of the House of Commons, informed Conroy that his being in the Duchess’s household was clearly the cause of all the animosity between the Duchess and her daughter. Abercromby recommended Sir John leave London as a service ‘of the greatest importance’. When Conroy resisted, the old Duke of Wellington was enlisted to speak to him directly. And so, ‘by cajoling, flattery and using plenty of butter’ he convinced Conroy of his ‘honourable and manly course’. Granted a pension of £3000 a year and the promise of an Irish baronetcy, which he never got, Conroy finally packed his trunks, bade Kensington farewell and departed for Italy.

He returned to England shortly after Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert in 1840. By 1842, he was firmly settled at his Arborfield villa in Berkshire where he took up life as a gentleman farmer, becoming well known as an agricultural improver and breeder of pigs. He also retained a considerable estate in Co Roscommon, in the parishes of Kiltrustan and Shankill, and it is notable that his grandson, Sir John Conroy, 3rd Bart, still owned 453 acres in the county in the 1870s. Conroy’s Longford-born mother died aged 82 in Blackrock, Co Dublin, on 4th January 1845.

Queen Victoria was apt to burst into tears when anyone she knew died. She does not appear to have wept when she learned that Sir John had died at Arborfield on 3 March 1854 aged 67. He was survived by his wife and four of their six children.[20] The Queen subsequently wrote to her mother: ‘I quite understand your feelings on the occasions of Sir John Conroy’s death … I will not speak of the past and of the many sufferings he entailed on us by creating divisions between you and me which could never have existed otherwise, they are buried with him. For his poor wife and children I am truly sorry. They are now free from the ban which kept them from ever appearing before me’. Approaching death, her mother conceded that she had been ‘unintentionally’ led to hurt her dear child and apologised.

Sir John Conroy’s bank accounts revealed that he was on the brink of bankruptcy, with £40,000 of debts, despite his lucrative pensions and ownership of other property and lead mines in Wales.[21] His memorial in Arborfield chapel carried a reminder to ‘the Princess Victoria’ that ‘on her accession to the throne’, she had ‘created him a baronet with a promise under the hand of the prime minister to create him a peer of Ireland as soon as the state of the peerage in that Kingdom should permit a creation’.

With thanks to Bob Janes.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Queen Victoria, Lytton Strachey Page 55

Queen Victoria – A Personal History, Christopher Hibbert.

Queen Victoria, Sidney Lee

Queen Victoria, Helen Rappaport (2003)

Sovereign Ladies: The Six Reigning Queens of England, Maureen Waller, p 341

English Agriculture in 1850-51, James Caird, Page 105

Royal Childhoods, Charles Carlton, p 125

The Gentleman's Magazine 1854, p. 424

The Annual Register of World Events: A Review of the Year 1855‎ - Page 285

The Pursuit of the Heiress: Aristocratic Marriage in Ireland 1740-1840, A. P. W. Malcomson (Ulster Historical Foundation), Page 158

FOOTNOTES

[1] Conroy claimed to be ‘the lineal representative of the chiefs of the native Irish Sept of O’Maolconroy, Co. Roscommon’. According to Burke’s, the Conroy family claimed descent from the ancient Milesian house of Conroy, formerly O’Maolconaire, centred in the parish of Clooncraff near Strokestown, Co Roscommon. Their ancestor was Niullus Magnus, High King of Ireland, and they were for many generations the seanchies, or heralds, to the Kings of Connaught. On 6th July 1638, Thomas Preston, Ulster King of Arms, registered the funeral of Moylin O’Mulcrony of Tullon, Co Roscommon. By his wife Catherine, daughter of Teigue O’Flanagan of Ceancloin, Co. Roscommon, he had issue, including his heir Thorna O’Mulconry (1585-1647). Thorna married Evelyn, daughter of Ferdoragh Mac Brenan of Clonicarran, Co. Roscommon, and was succeeded by his only son John O’ Mulconry (1628-1672). During the Cromwellian days, the family property was confiscated and John fled to France where he dropped the first two syllables of his name. In 1655, he married Florence, daughter of G Fitzgerald.

Following his death in 1672, John was succeeded by his 15-year-old son Charles Conry (1657-1690). On 10 August 1678, Charles II regranted at least some of family lands in Roscommon to Charles. However, Charles was amongst those killed in action while supporting the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne. He was duly succeeded by his brother Fearfassa Conry. In order to retain the lands, Fearfassa converte to Protestantism. He married Cecily Aylmer by whom he had one illegitimate son, John. He also had six illegitimate sons who are said to have shared in his estate.

Fearfassa died in 1746 and was succeeded by his son John (1704-1769), who married Elizabeth, daughter and sole heiress of Robert Fowke (or Foulke) of Curragh, Co. Cork. , and died in 1769. (The Fowke marriage brought the Lyttleton family crest onto one quarter of the Conroy arms). In 1747, John Conry acquired a perpetual lease from the See of Tuam on the estate of Bettyfield in the parish if Shankhill, Co Roscommon. These lands stand just south west of Elphin. John’s portrait is to be found on page 105 of ‘Irish Furniture’ by Knight of Glin & James Peill. John and Elizabeth had one son, John Ponsonby Conry, and two daughters, Elizabeth (1754-1818), who married (1776) Dr Robert Longfield of Cork, and Catherine (1757-1824) who married (1783) Walter Hore of Seafield, Co Wexford.

[2] In 1769, FV Wilson was appointed Barrack Master of Carlow District containing the barracks of Carlow, Athy, Tullow, Maryborough and Dunnymore. Dublin Gazette 19 – 21 Dec 1769

[3] Margaret Conroy, his widow, remarried Francis Waldron, only son of Thomas Waldron of Drumsna, and a daughter Emma before passing away at a good age in 1845. Emma Waldron married, firstly, Terence Connolly of Mount Prospect, Ballyshannon. After Conolly’s death, she was married again, in December 1844, in Monkstown Church to solicitor Charles or Carden Terry, possibly of Prospect, Co Cork (Annual Register‎ 1845, Edmund Burke, James Dodsley, p 188).

[4] He is said to have been born in Mazey Castle [Maes Y Castell], Carnarvonshire, on 21st October 1786, while his obituary in The Times gives his place of birth as Cuerhyn [Carehun] in Carnarvonshire.

My thanks to Bob Janes for providing the following extra details in March 2004: "Maes Y Castell means 'field by the castle' and there are several in Wales, including one alongside Caernavon Castle. Caerhun also exists Caerhun, Conwy LL32 There is an article here that links both names back to Roman crossings of the Conway.
http://www.betws31.freeserve.co.uk/Bath-house/Caerhun_s_Dock/caerhun_s_dock.html ... I have no idea if John Conroy was born there, but at least the location seems to exist."

, but I can find no further record of this castle or why his mother might have been there. , but Cuerhyn also seems a rather elusive place.

[5] Sir John’s siblings were:

1. George Conroy (1788-1805, RN Midshipman, died at sea unmarried),

2. Llewellin Conroy (b. 1790), served in East India Company, sometime ADC to the Governor General of India & Commandant of the Militia at Calcutta, married Miss Claudine Palmer, daughter of John Palmer, a banker from Calcutta. Claudia's sister Anna Catherine Bazett Palmer married Robert Castle Jenkins; their son Charles Vernon Jenkins married Catherine MacAndrew (who's family are noted elsewhere on this website). Llewellin and Claudine Conroy had two sons Augustus (born 1822, later known as John Augustus; he had issue including Augustus Ayshford, born 1852, and Vere Valentine, born 1858) and George (born 1823).

3. William (b. 1794, died young).

4. Major Dean Josias Conroy (b. 1798, drowned in a boating accident in January 1828).

5. Laetitia, who died young and unmarried.

6. There was also his half-sister Emma Waldron, foot-noted above.

[6] He did not serve in either the Peninsula War or the Waterloo campaign.

[7] Dr Fisher, Bishop of Salisbury, was a close friend and patron of the artist John Constable.

[8] The other was General Wetherall, presumably Sir Frederick Augustus Wetherall, GCH (1754–1842), Knight, British General, of Castle Bear House, Ealing.

[9] King Leopold was the Duchess of Kent’s brother. He was a man who liked wearing 3 inch platform shoes, a feather boa, rouged cheeks, consierable make up and extravagant wigs.

[10] Lytton Strachey rather pompously described him ‘an Irishman with no judgment and a great deal of self-importance’.

[11] Feodore was the Duchess’s son by her first marriage to Charles, Prince of Leiningen (1763–1814).

[12] On the plus side, he ensured that along with Baroness Lehzen she was well read, learned to ride, excellent manners, languages, scripture and so forth. She was hopeless at maths and science and always felt uneasy in intellectual company.

[13] Her carefully controlled circle comprised the ‘usual party’ of the Conroys and their clever friend, Lady Flora Hastings.

[14] In Oxford the Princess had to watch as Conroy was given an honorary doctorate while the Regius Professor of Civil Law declared: ‘Can you wonder that he who had gained the esteem of the Husband should also have pleased His surviving Consort’.

[15] In a letter to Lord Liverpool, she maintained that ‘she knew things of him [Conroy] which rendered it totally impossible for her to place him in any confidential position near her … she knew things which entirely took away her confidence in him & that she knew this of herself without any other person informing her’.

[16] As part of the marriage settlement, the Conroy’s Roscommon estate provided ample security for Lady Alicia’s £16,000. Sir John also owned a villa in Berkshire (ie: Arborfield) and an estate in Montgomeryshire which were both destined for Edward. Conroy also lived in an old thatched cottage at Osborne on the Isle of Wight which Victoria would later make her home. As it happens, the couple had just one child, the 3rd Bart, before Edward’s roving eye unravelled the marriage.

[17] As Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine put it, ‘he had the choice of preying upon a colony abroad, or rioting on a pension at home, but shut out of the reginal palace he was to be and is’. (Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 1838, p. 510).

[18] That same night, the Queen dined alone as a demonstration of her independence. For her 19th birthday the Duchess pointedly gave her a copy of King Lear, highlighting the theme of lousy daughters!

[19] The Duchess was also in debt some £50,000 by end of 1837. Prompted by Conroy, she asked Queen to give he £30 grand to help repay the debt. I think they did sort this out in a manner.

[20] Sir John Conroy’s children were:

1 Sir Edward Conroy, 2nd Bart, his successor, born in Dublin in 1809. He married in 1837 Lady Parsons, younger sister of the Earl of Rosse. He died at Arborfield on 3 November 1869, and is interred in the family vault. Their son, Sir John Conroy, 3rd Bart, died unmarried and the line died with him.

2 Arthur Benjamin Conroy. Born 7 May, 1813. Died 24 May 1817, at Shooters Hill in Kent.

3 Stephen Rowley, a Lieutenant and Captain in the Coldstream Guards, and Aide de camp to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He was born 15 August 1815 and died unmarried of pulmonary consumption at Wiesbaden in Germany on 9 September 1841.

4 Henry George, Capt and Lieut Colonel in the Grenadier Guards and Aide de camp to the Commander of the Forces in Ireland. In 1842, he married Charlotte, daughter of the late Dillon MacNamara esq. She died without issue in May 1843 and he married secondly (1859) Frances, daughter of William Marshall but had no issue.

The daughters were

1 Elizabeth Jane Conroy, b. 13 May 1811, d. 1 May 1855.

2 Victoire Maria Louisa was born on 12th August 1819. The Duchess of Kent stood godmother at her christening, and the child was named after her. She was the future Queen’s constant companion as a child. In 1842 she was married in Kensington to Major Wyndham Edward Hanmer, Royal Horse Guards, later 4th Baronet Hanmer, of Stockgrove and Rushmere, next brother to Sir John Hanmer Bart. of Bettisfield, Co. Flint. The marriage rates just two lines in The Times of 11th March 1842. She had one son, Edward John Henry Hanmer, born at Kensington 15th April, 1843. She died 9th February, 1866, at Rushmere Lodge, Leighton Buzzard, Bucks, and is buried in the vault of the Hanmer family in Simpson churchyard, Bucks. She died on 9 February 1866.

[21] In 1849, he founded the Montgomeryshire Regiment of Militia. He also seems to have been associated with Llanbrynmair, Montgomery, although it seems Llanbrynmair is in Powys and was the property for many generations of the families of Sir Watcyn Williams Wynne.

 

Articles