Tuesday, December 29, 2020

An Amiable Wife

 By Lauren Gilbert

Portrait of Anne Law, nee' Towry, 1st Lady Ellenborough by John Linnell

As a female, I cannot help being interested in the lives of women of earlier times. Finding information about some is easy, thanks to published letters and memoirs, newspaper archives, and (because of their own personal status or accomplishments or notoriety) even biographies. With others, it is a challenge, and we may find ourselves finding that little data is available, and that as side details provided in the information related to a father, husband or other male relative. One such lady is Anne Law, Lady Ellenborough. The November/December issue of JANE AUSTEN’S WORLD magazine included a reference to her in “What Made The News in November & December 1812” that caught my attention.

Anne was born about 1769, and possibly christened in St. Pancras Church in London. Her father was George Phillips Towry and his wife Elizabeth More. Mr. Towry served in the Royal Navy, commissioned a lieutenant in 1757. He inherited an estate from his uncle in 1762, and subsequently married the well-to-d0 and well-connected Miss More (possibly descended from Sir Thomas More) in June 1766 at St. Martin’s in the Fields. She had two brothers George Henry and Charles George. Elizabeth died, and her father remarried on April 3, 1770 to Susannah Haywood. In November of 1770, Mr. Towry won 20,000 pounds in a lottery. He became a Commissioner of the Naval Victualling in 1784, rising to Deputy Chairman of the Victualling Board November 4, 1803. He was considered an able administrator.

I found no information about Anne’s youth or education or her introduction to society. She was considered a great beauty, with regular features, rosy complexion, and a good figure. She was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in March of 1789, but that portrait was lost at sea. She had numerous admirers, among them a successful lawyer named Edward Law.


Mr. Law was the son of the Bishop of Carlisle, had attended school at the Charterhouse, and went on to Cambridge, obtaining a B.A. and an M.A. He decided to pursue law and was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn as a student in 1769. In 1771, he studied in London with George Wood (a special pleader (a lawyer who specialised in drafting statements of cases, give opinions, and prepare papers for various court proceedings) who was knighted, taught many students, and became famous). In 1775, Mr. Law became a special pleader himself, and was called to the bar in 1780. He built a successful practice and was elected to the Inner Temple in 1782. He gained a level of fame as leading counsel for Warren Hastings, a long-drawn-out trial that began in February of 1788. Although he was not handsome and was apparently socially awkward, he had acquired the reputation as something of a rake (and kept a mistress), prior to meeting Anne Towry. He pursued her fixedly, and asked her father for her hand. Being of good family and successful in his work, her father gave his consent to Mr. Law’s courtship.

Regardless of her father’s approval, Anne Towry refused his hand as she had already refused other suitors. In fact, she refused him three times. Each time, Mr. Law continued to court her despite her determined refusal. Finally, Anne consented to marry him the fourth time of asking. There is a suggestion that, at this point, members of her family pressured her to reconsider because he was such a promising suitor. According to THE LIVES OF THE CHIEF JUSTICES OF ENGLAND From the Norman Conquest Till the Death of Lord Tenterden, “…her aversion was softened, and she became tenderly attached to him.” (1) They were married by special license at her father’s home in Great Ormand Street on October 17, 1789.

On all counts, the marriage was successful. The couple had their first child, a son named Edward, about September of 1790. He was the first of thirteen children. Mr. Law’s career continued successfully-he became quite wealthy, he was involved with numerous high-profile cases and was instrumental in the ultimate acquittal of Mr. Hastings in 1795. He became Attorney General February 1801, and was knighted February 20, 1801 by George III. Shortly after being knighted, Mr. Law was returned as member for the borough of Newtown, Isle of Wight, to the House of Commons. His career in the House was short-lived, as he was appointed Lord Chief Justice April 11, 1802. On April 19, 1802, Mr. Law was created Baron Ellenborough in the county of Ellenborough, sworn a member of the privy council on April 21, and took his seat in the House of Lords on April 26th.

What little data is available indicates that Anne was busy with home and children, acting as her husband’s hostess. After their marriage, she was known to have retained her beauty, causing her to be pursued by followers at social events, and strangers gathering to watch her tend her flowers at their home. Their marriage was considered an affectionate and harmonious one. (2) She was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1811 and again in 1813, and by other artists. In addition to residence in London, the couple also had for some years a principal residence at Waldershare in Kent near Dover. This property was owned by the Earl of Guildford, and apparently leased by Lord Ellenborough.

The reference to Anne as Lady Ellenborough in JANE AUSTEN’S WORLD occurred in December of 1812: because of her generosity, one hundred poor women and girls were completely clothed, taken to church and then back to the mansion where they were provided with soup to take home and a shilling each. (There were 12 pennies in a shilling; in 1812, a pound of cheese cost about 9 pence.) This action was mentioned in the SUN (London) of Wednesday, September 16, 1812, in which Lady Ellenborough was described as “the amiable hostess of Waldershare-house”. While similar acts of charity were not uncommon, one of the things that struck me about this was the specific focus being on women and girls.

In early 1816, Lord Ellenborough began experiencing health problems but continued working. Anne’s father died March 12, 1817. His obituary describes him as “Commissioner of the Victualling-office, father of Lady Ellenborough.” Lord Ellenborough went abroad in the fall of 1817 in an attempt to improve his health, and returned to the bench on his return. He was very upset about the acquittals resulting in the winter of 1817, and his health deteriorated to the point that he was periodically absent from court. In September of l1818, he gave notice of his intent to resign, and executed his deed of resignation on November 6, 1818. He died December 13, 1818 at home in St. James’s Square. He was buried in the chapel of the Charterhouse, and a monument was raised there in his honour. At the time of his passing, he was survived by nine of his children with Anne, including their son Edward (now married) ranging to their youngest a daughter named Frances Henrietta born in 1812. (It appears he was also survived by some children born out of wedlock.) Anne was left a very wealthy widow.

The house at Waldershare was no longer in their possession, as it appears to have been occupied by the Earl of Guildford at the time of Lord Ellenborough’s death. Anne was seldom mentioned in print, other than at attendance at weddings. She outlived her husband by almost 25 years and never remarried. She apparently suffered ill health before her death at her home in Stratford-place in London. She died August 16, 1843. She left a rather detailed will, in which she left specific requests of jewelry to her daughters with other provisions, which was proved September 13, 1843. 



2. Ibid.

Sources include:

JANE AUSTEN’S REGENCY WORLD. November/December 2020, Issue 108. “WHAT MADE THE NEWS IN NOVEMBR & DECEMBER 1812”, compiled by Judy Boyd from the British Newspaper Archives.

Britishnewspaperarchive.com.uk  Numerous articles including the Hereford Journal for Wednesday, October 28, 1789; the Derby Mercury for Friday, December 7, 1770; the Leeds Mercury for Saturday, December 19, 1818; the Kerry Evening Post for Saturday, October 23, 1841; the Lincolnshire Chronicle for Friday, August 25, 1843; the home page is HERE

Thegazette.co.uk  THE LONDON GAZETTE for Tuesday February 17 to Saturday February 21, 1801. P. 202. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/15338/page/202 ; THE LONDON GAZETTE FOR TUESDAY APRIL 13 to SATURDAY April 17, 1802. P. 386. HERE

Books.google.com FRAGMENTIA GENEALOGICA, Volume 10. Great Britain: Private Press of Frederick Arthur Crisp, 1904. P. 43 HERE ;  The Annual Register or A View of the History and Politics of the Year 1843. London: F. & J. Rivington, 1844. P. 286.HERE ; THE UNIVERSAL MAGAZINE, NEW SERIES. VOL. XVIII. July to December, Inclusive. 1812. London: Sherwood, Neely, and Jones. P. 521 HERE; THE ROYAL KALENDAR AND COURT AND CITY REGISTER FOR ENGLAND, SCOTLAND, IRELAND, AND THE COLONIES FOR THE YEAR 1820. London: William Stockdale. P. 31. HERE

Minnesotalegalhistoryproject.org Campbell, John Lord, LL.D, FRSE. THE LIVES OF THE CHIEF JUSTICES OF ENGLAND FROM THE NORMAN CONQUEST TILL THE DEATH OF LORD TENDERDEN. Third Edition. In Four Volumes-Vol. IV. London: John Murray, 1874. Pp. 163-164. (PDF) HERE

Wikisource.org THE DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY 1885-1900, Vol.32. “Law, Edward (1750-1818)” by George Russell Barker. HERE


Anne Law, nee’ Towry, 1st Lady Ellenborough by John Linnell. Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Wmpearl, May 21, 2012. HERE
Edward Law, 1st Lord Ellenborough by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Donan.raven, November 20, 2012. HERE


Lauren Gilbert lives in Florida with her husband. She earned a B.A. degree in liberal arts English, minoring in Art History. She has presented programs for the South Florida region of JASNA. Her first book, HEYERWOOD A Novel, is still in print, and her second novel,  A RATIONAL ATTACHMENT, is out now. She has articles in both volumes of CASTLES, CUSTOMS AND KINGS: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors. She is also working on a non-fiction book about seven powerful women.  Please visit her website for more information. 


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