We haven’t had one of these in a while. With luck, two may come along in close succession.
This prime specimen came under the ‘scope because of her grandson, who may well follow in this succession of oddities. She is a topic of interest in her own right, being at the centre of one of British high-society’s most spectacular sex-scandals.
The lady was born in the early weeks of 1738, the only child of Sir Henry Liddell, a Durham coal-magnate, and Anne Delmé.
By the age of eighteen she was married to Augustus Henry FitzRoy, earl of Euston, who succeeded as third Duke of Grafton the following year. She claimed it was marriage for love: doubtless the coal royalties lubricated the stretched Grafton finances, while greasing the Liddells’ social climb. Joshua Reynolds did the full-length portrait (right) around 1757-9, and, among the formulaic stuff, catches something of a knowing look in her eye. More of that anon.
The marriage produced four children, one of whom had a son, therefore Anne Fitzpatrick’s grandson, who will duly appear shortly in this occasional series.
Anne enjoyed large social occasions, and expensive card games: the duke preferred to lose his money on horses. Strains began to show: that incorrigible old gossip , Horace Walpole, sensed there was something in the wind —The Graftons go abroad for the Duchess’s health. Another climate may mend that — I will not answer for more.
Another point of marital discord involved politics: she was involved in the Whiggish Bedford set, he was seeking preference from the Tory circle around the king.
Shenanigans in high society
Matters reached an impasse during the duchess’s fourth pregnancy, when the duke was taking consolation in the bed of Annabella “Nancy” Parsons.
… going by the name of Mrs Nancy Horton (widow), our heroine found herself completely penniless and out of luck. Praying wasn’t gonna help her put food in her stomach and find a place to live, Nancy had to act fast. She managed to find a series of men to take care of her in exchange for, ya know, the goods. One of these men just happened to be the newly separated Duke of Grafton who had had enough of his wife’s gambling. The Duke was head over heels for Nancy and the two were the example of the perfect couple for years. Nancy even acted as the incumbent wife, hosting dinners and such-all while the Duke was serving as Prime Minister. They saw each other as equals and the Duke was never adverse to seeking Nancy’s advice in political matters. The breakup came as quite a shock to everyone including Nancy. The press was quick to report that while the Duke wanted to keep things amiable, Nancy was too hurt. Soon afterward, the Duke remarried.
That has slightly re-ordered what seems to be yer ackshull actualité, as generally accepted. The dirt-dishers have it that when Grafton came to inspect his latest sprog, the duchess told him his fortune, added that she hated him, and was promptly expelled from the ducal presence and properties. A legal separation was complete by January 1765, with our Anne keeping her jewels (which were considerable) and an annuity of £3,000 p.a., on which basis she set up shop in Upper Grosvenor Street. Soon she had the Duke of Portland as a regular gentleman-caller. Portland, however, moved on to Lady Dorothy Cavendish, and proposing to her without as much as a by-your-leave to Anne (who remained his legal wife). This was a major social disgrace for Anne, added to which Grafton reclaimed both his sons.
Love and marriage …
Horace Walpole then fitted Anne up with John Fitzpatrick, earl of Upper Ossory, and they were lovers by late 1767 — Prime Minister Grafton had her stand down at a royal funeral, for she was showing signs of a further pregnancy. In June Anne sought seclusion in Surrey. In July Grafton reclaimed the last of their children. In August Anne’s child by Fitzpatrick (also Anne) was born. Grafton sued for adultery, buying off Anne’s counter-claim with £2,000 p.a.; and the divorce (which required a parliamentary act) was completed by 23rd March 1769. Three days later Anne became Countess of Upper Ossory, stopping only to reclaim her £40,000 dowry from Grafton.
Meanwhile Grafton had remarried — his choice fell upon Elizabeth Wrottesley, who was Ossory’s cousin (small world), whereupon Anne Fitzpatrick, as she now was, felt a good idea was retirement to the Ossory estates at Ampthill and Northamptonshire, returning to London only to act as a political hostess in the winter season.
The Ossory marriage seems to have gelled, though a second daughter died and twin sons miscarried. The base-born first daughter, Anne, was brought back and dignified as “Lady Anne Fitzpatrick”. A third daughter, Lady Gertrude, was born in 1774. About this time Ossory was going to be nominated as ambassador to Spain: a proposal that Grafton promptly squelched. The Countess Anne was up to that: she is thought to have had Ossory defect to the Opposition and support Burke over the American Colonies. She became something of a fan of Charles James Fox.
It was expected that her father’s death would bring her the Liddell coal revenues: this didn’t transpire, but she was reconciled to her mother (who had disapproved of the Ossory association and the divorce). There was some revenge for Anne Fitzpatrick when her son, Lord Euston, married her friend Walpole’s great niece.
Her relationship with Walpole, though, was changing: he was incapacitated by gout, she went travelling and corresponded with him until his death. She seems to have developed into something of a prude: on one occasion Walpole sent her a grotesque nude image, A Modern Venus (as right), which was all the vogue: she returned it, with suitable clothing.
She died in 1804. Ossory in 1818. Anne and Gertrude inherited the Fitzpatrick lands in Ireland. Neither married.
We are not finished with the Fitzroys …