Monday, March 26, 2012

Amelia Stewart, Lady Castlereagh, the Marchioness of Londonderry

by Lauren Gilbert

Born February 20, 1772, Lady Amelia Anne Hobart was the daughter of John Hobart, second Earl of Buckinghamshire and his wife, Caroline Conolly. Amelia, who also became known as Emily, was the only surviving child of that marriage (her father was married previously, and remarried after Caroline’s death). Although her place of birth is not clear, it seems possible she was born at Blickling, in Norfolk. John Hobart was a nobleman, and had served in Parliament, as Ambassador to Russia and as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Her mother’s father was the nephew and heir of William Conolly who was a wealthy Irish landowner and a Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. Caroline’s mother was a daughter of the first Earl of Stafford, and her brother was married to a daughter of Charles Lennox, the second Duke of Richmond. It is clear to see that Amelia had connections to status, wealth, and political power on both sides of her family.

Amelia married Robert Stewart June 9, 1794 at St. George’s, Hanover Square, London. Robert made his debut in the English Parliament in 1795. Robert’s father became Marquise of Londonderry in 1796, giving Robert the honorary title of Viscount Castlereagh. At this point, Amelia became Lady Castlereagh. Subsequently his political career took off, and he held several offices, finally becoming Foreign Secretary in 1812. It is thought that Amelia’s election to the position of Lady Patroness of Almack’s occurred sometime after Lord Castlereagh became foreign secretary. As one of the Lady Patronesses, Amelia became known as a stickler for propriety, and is credited with establishing the rule that closed the doors of Almack’s at exactly 11:00 pm. Supposedly, she caused the Duke of Wellington to be turned away for arriving a few minutes after the hour. She is also credited with introducing a dance, the quadrille, to London. She was one of the older lady patronesses, and was described by Captain Gronow as tres grande dame. Her social and political assets made her very useful to her husband, making it possible for their home to be a meeting place for his political party.

Amelia accompanied Robert to the Congress at Vienna in 1814. They lived in a twenty-two-room suite in an elegant neighborhood, where they entertained lavishly. She apparently enjoyed Vienna a great deal. She was Robert’s hostess for many entertainments and lavish soirees. At one point, the Tsar of Russia, wanting to call on Lord Castlereagh (which would have been a breach of etiquette), officially visited Amelia herself, which allowed him access to Lord Castlereagh for a private conversation. Obviously, Amelia was a useful political hostess for her husband, who ultimately concluded the alliance with France and Austria in 1815.

Amelia and Robert were, by all accounts, a loving couple. Unfortunately, they had no children of their own. In 1821, Robert became the second Marquis of Londonderry. He was suffering a great deal from the strains of political life (having been thrust into huge responsibilities and several unpopular positions, knowing himself to be publically hated), which in turn led to significant health issues. Robert was suffering from mental as well as physical disorders and finally, despite the efforts of Amelia and others around him to protect him (including hiding his razors), he committed suicide at his home August 12, 1822. After an inquest determined that he had committed suicide while insane, Amelia was able to bury him in Westminster Abbey August 20, 1822. She died in London February 12, 1829, and was buried in the cloisers of the Abbey February 20, 1829.

Sources:

Gronow, Captain Rees Howell. THE REMINISCENCES OF CAPTAIN GRONOW. McLean, VA: IndyPublish.com.

King, David. VIENNA 1814 How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna. New York: Harmony Books, 2008.

The Jane Austen Center. The Patronesses of Almack's: The Arbiters of London Respectibility, by Laura Boyle. Posted 7/17/2011. http://www.janeausten.com.uk/ Viewed 2/29/2012

The Peerage.com. Lady Amelia Anne Hobart. http://thepeerage.com/p2833.htm Viewed 3/2/2012.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Amelia Stewart, Viscountess Castlereagh. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelia_Stewart,_Viscountess_Castlereagh Viewed 3/2/2012.

Westminster Abbey.org. Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh. http://www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/people/robert-stewart,-viscount-castlereagh Viewed 3/2/2012.

The Romantic Query Letter and The Happy-Ever-After. The Patronesses of Almack's. http://theromanticqueryletter.blogspot.com/2009/12/patronesses-of-almacks.html Viewed 3/2/2012.

NNDB. Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh. http://www.nndb.com/people/357/000095072/ Viewed 3/25/2012.


By Lauren Gilbert, author of HEYERWOOD: A Novel.

4 comments:

  1. A reminder that birth, wealth, position and success have little to do with happiness -- thank you Lauren for this informative piece.

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  2. Great article, I've never heard about the woman 'behind' Castlereagh. Loved the snippets about her influence at Almack's. I just wonder what she was like after her husband's death when all her useful and influence dwindled?

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  3. I am still looking for sources, such as letters, diaries, etc. I found so much for others of her era, I can't believe that there aren't any! She seems to have been incredibly discreet, another huge advantage to Lord Castlereagh!

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  4. 'Amelia was able to bury him in Westminster Abbey August 20, 1822.' This statement is misleading, insofar as Amelia did not attend the funeral.

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