Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dorothy Osborne

Dorothy Osborne, Lady Temple

by Anita Davison

Whilst working on my latest 17th century novel, I am researching trivia about my heroine's friends. One of these was a lady called Dorothy Osborne, who lived at Shene, and who warrants a mention for her observation of Elizabeth Murray’s character in the latter’s biography.

Born in 1627, Dorothy’s father was Lieutenant-Governor of the Isle of Guernsey under Charles I, and held out for the royalist cause. Sir Peter Osborne took his family to France in 1648 and on the journey, stopped off on the Isle of Wight where William Temple met Dorothy Osborne, and these two nineteen-year-olds fell in love.

At the time, Charles I was a prisoner at Carisbrooke castle, and these three were arrested for scratching royalist graffiti on a window-pane. Dorothy apparently took the blame, relying on the Roundheads' gallantry, and secured their release.

Their families did not approve of the alliance on financial grounds, so the couple wrote to each other in secret, the letters carried back and forth by servants while William travelled in Europe. William’s letters are lost but some of Dorothy’s are still in print.

The defeat of the Royalists forced Sir Peter to surrender the fortress, and he and his family returned to their estate at Chicksands Priory in Bedforshire, where they lived in near penury until the Restoration. The building was once a Gilbertine priory which the Osborn family had owned since 1576, after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It was only one of nine religious houses in England that housed both nuns and canons. They lived in different buildings and were separated in church by a screen. Ghostly nuns, monks and horsemen have been seen at Chicksands; amongst whom a nun who was rumoured to have been pregnant kept locked up in her room until her death.

Dorothy’s family presented her with a line of suitors, among whom were her cousin Thomas Osborne, afterwards Earl of Danby, Henry Cromwell, son of Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, and Sir Justinian Isham, whom she refers to as an ‘elderly man’ when he was forty-two.  Dorothy refused them all until after the deaths of both hers and William’s fathers, after which the families finally agreed to them marrying.

With their mutual dreams fulfilled, Dorothy contracted smallpox, which not only disfigured her, but delayed the wedding, which took place on Christmas Day, 1654, seven years after they met. Between 1655 and the Restoration, they lived quietly in Ireland, at the house of Sir John Temple, who had made his peace with Oliver Cromwell, and resumed his official position.
The accession of King Charles II rescued Temple from obscurity and he sat in parliament at Dublin as member for Carlow. After a visit to England in 1661, as commissioner from the Irish parliament, he finally removed to there in 1663 and took Dorothy to live at Sheen.

Reputed to be a ‘distant and egotistical man’, William Temple was created a baronet and negotiated the 1666 Triple Alliance of England, Sweden, and Holland, to establish a balance of power against France, as well as negotiating, in 1673, the peace which concluded the Second Dutch War.

Temple was charged with cultivating good relations with Spain, threatened by the claims of Louis XIV on the Spanish Netherlands when he marched on Flanders in Spring 1667.

Sir William Temple was made Ambassador to The Hague twice and lived for two years on good terms with the young Prince of Orange, afterwards William III. The Prince was fond of speaking English and of English habits, constantly dined and supped once or twice a week at Temple’s house. Dorothy had no desire to accompany her husband on diplomatic missions: she left this to her sister-in-law Martha Giffard who went everywhere with William and managed his household at The Hague.

Sir William helped arrange the marriage negotiations of Prince William to Mary Stuart, daughter of the Duke of York. Dorothy was an important figure in the negotiations because of her friendship with the royal couple, one that lasted until Queen Mary’s death in 1694.

Among Temple's chief achievements was the peace of Breda and the January 1668 Triple Alliance between England, the United Netherlands, and Sweden.
Sir William Temple
Samuel Pepys records public opinion on the treaty saying: "the only good public thing that hath been done since the king came into England."

In August 1671, Lord Arlington let the royal yacht Merlin, with Dorothy Osborne aboard, sail through the Dutch fleet at anchor off Den Briel for maintenance. The Dutch ships duly struck their flag in salute, as was mandatory under treaty, but their commander refused to salute firing white smoke, because they were doubtful the Merlin counted as a real warship.

Charles ordered the intriguer George Downing demand that the admirals responsible would be severely punished, which the States-General of the Netherlands refused.  Thus Dorothy was jokingly reputed to have helped provoke another Anglo-Dutch war.

Dorothy had nine children, all but two of whom died in infancy. A daughter, Diana, succumbed to smallpox at age fourteen, and a son, John, took his own life in his twenties, but not before he had married and fathered two children, providing Sir William and Lady Temple with two granddaughters: Elizabeth and Dorothy.

With King William and Queen Mary on the throne, Sir William was pressed to be Secretary of State three times, but he refused, preferring to retire to his property in Moor Park, Surrey. Jonathan Swift lived with the Temples as secretary during the last ten years of his life.

Sir William had been encouraging his son, John, to accept the office of Secretary at War, but within a week of accepting this post, John took a boat saying he wished to go to Greenwich; when he had gone a short distance, he ordered the waterman to set him ashore, dropped a shilling in the boat for the waterman, before throwing himself into the Thames at London Bridge.

He left a note in the boat too saying:
"My folly in undertaking what I was not able to perform has done the King and kingdom a great deal of prejudice. I wish him all happiness and abler servants than John Temple."

Dorothy died in early 1695 and is buried with her husband and children, on the north side of the nave of Westminster Abbey, close to the door leading to the organ gallery. Sir William died four years later.

Sir William Temple  1st Baronet 1628 –1699“When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t, they don’t.”

Dorothy Osborne -  1627 – 1695 - "But ‘tis a sad thing that all one’s happiness is only that the world does not know you are miserable.” 

Anita Davison is a Historical Fiction Author whose latest release, Royalist Rebel, is published under the name Anita Seymour by Claymore Press.

1 comment:

  1. A fascinating woman. Her letters are wonderful. Thank you for this excellent post.


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