My Recollections by Adeline Horsey Countess Cardigan 1824 1915 Chapter VII: My Marriage is in My Recollections by Adeline Horsey Countess Cardigan 1824 1915.
Among those who came to our house at 8 Upper Grosvenor Street, the Earl of Cardigan (50) was my father's (58) particular friend, and in consequence we saw a great deal of him. Lord Cardigan (50) has sometimes been described as a favourite of fortune, for he possessed great wealth, great personal attractions, and he was much liked by the late Queen Victoria (28) and Prince Albert (28). Commanding the 11th Hussars, he was the first person to welcome the Prince (28) at Dover when he arrived to marry the Queen (28), and his regiment was afterwards known as Prince Albert's own Hussars.
His Lordship (50) was a typical soldier, and after the Crimean War there was perhaps no more popular hero in all England. So much has been written about him that it is unnecessary for me to retail matters that are well known. I have often been asked whether he confided to me anything particular about the Charge of the Light Brigade, but the truth is that he never seemed to attach any importance to the part he played. Such matters are the property of the historian, and as his widow I am naturally his greatest admirer.
Lord Cardigan's father, the sixth Earl (78), was a splendid-looking man, and his seven daughters were lovely girls and great heiresses. They all married men of title, and each received a dowry of £100,000 on her wedding day.
When the old Earl was lying dangerously ill at his house in Portman Square, he asked the doctor to tell him whether there was any chance of his recovery. " You are to tell me the truth", he insisted. The doctor was silent. " I see by your manner that you can hold out no hope", said the Earl; "well, death has no terrors for me — but tell me, how long have I to live? " There was a pause, and at last the doctor stammered, "Two or three days, your Lordship ! ".
The Earl sat up, and rang the bell placed on the table by his bedside. A servant answered the summons. "Order my carriage", said the dying man.
"Good gracious, my Lord!" exclaimed the terrified doctor, "your Lordship cannot realise what you have said"..
" I do realise it", the Earl calmly answered, " but if I am going to die, I will die at Deene and not here". Remonstrance was useless: Lord Cardigan was carried to his carriage and taken to Deene, where he died a few days afterwards.
His son (50), my husband, succeeded to a rich inheritance, and he rivalled his father in appearance, for he was a singularly handsome man, fair and tall, with a fine figure and most fascinating manner. Women courted him and men flattered him.
As quite a young man he fell in love with the wife (50) of Colonel Johnson, who divorced her on his account. She was the daughter of Admiral (76) and Mrs. Tollemache Halliday, and she was a beautiful woman. During the two years that elapsed before the decree was made absolute, Lord Cardigan found she possessed an ungovernable temper, but, nevertheless, he chivalrously married her, and she became Countess of Cardigan in 1826.
Their union was an unhappy one, and each went their way, but her final intrigue with Lord Colville (77) led to a definite separation in 1846.
For twelve years Cardigan (50) remained a grass widower, consoled by many fair friends, and bills no doubt being as numerous then as they are now, certain ladies were always ready to stop at Deene without their husbands.
I knew Lady Cardigan (50) quite well, and on my first visit to Deene with my mother in 1842 she was very kind, and gave me some beautiful Northamptonshire lace, which I still possess.
There is a not unamusing story told about her (50) and a certain Mrs. Browne, well known in Society. Mrs. Browne had fallen desperately in love with Lord Cardigan (50), and although she did not know him she sent him quantities of billets doux begging for an interview. Lady Cardigan (50) accidentally got hold of one of these letters, and she determined to play a trick on the love-sick lady. Mr. Baldwin, a very handsome man, was Cardigan's (50) agent at the time, and Lady Cardigan (50) persuaded him to personate her husband, and keep a bogus appointment she had made with Mrs. Browne.
The unsuspecting lady received a note purporting to come from Cardigan, saying he would visit her on a certain evening. He further stipulated that as he was so well known he did not wish to see any of Mrs. Browne's servants, and that she must receive him in the dark ! Any one but an infatuated woman would have queried the genuineness of the letter, but Mrs. Browne did not, and when Mr. Baldwin arrived, he was duly received in darkness as black as Erebus. He and Mrs. Browne were mutually well pleased with the result of their meeting, and under cover of the darkness of the small hours of a winter's morning they said good-bye. It was not until long afterwards that Mrs. Browne found out that she had entertained an agent unawares, and no doubt she hated Lady Cardigan (50) for the unkind deception of which she had been the victim.
As I have previously stated, I used to see a great deal of Lord Cardigan (50) at my father's house, but he treated me quite like a jeune fille, although I was always asked to the great parties he gave during the Season. In January 1857 I went with my father to Deene, and this visit was destined to change the whole of my life.
We arrived late in the afternoon to find ourselves the additions of a great house-party, and I can picture Lord Cardigan as I saw him then, surrounded by the Duchess of Montrose (30), Baroness Ufford and Mrs. Dudley Ward, who all regarded me with none too friendly eyes. Cardigan (50) told me afterwards that, when I entered the room, he realised at once I was the one woman in the world for him. He was an impulsive character, and he lost no time in letting me see the impression I had made, and I was flattered and delighted to feel that I was loved by him.
After we left Deene, Lord Cardigan followed us to London, and needless to say his marked attentions to me soon became the topic of much spiteful and jealous gossip. Those Early Victorian days were exceptionally conventional, and the Court was still as narrow-minded as when poor Lady Flora Hastings (41) [See Death of Flora Hastings] had been the victim of its lying slander.
If Lord Cardigan (50) and I had met in 1909 instead of in 1857 no particular comment would have been made on our friendship, but in 1857 Society was scandalised because I had the courage to ride and drive with a married man who had an unfaithful wife.
There was another and a stronger reason for the wagging tongues of slander, for they were prompted by jealousy. Lady Cardigan (50) was then very ill, and every one knew that her death was only a question of a year or two. Once free, Lord Cardigan (50) would be a prize well worth winning by match-making matrons with marriageable daughters, and his openly avowed affection for me had put an end to these hopes, I was not in the least disturbed by the incessant gossip, but my father (58) and my brothers were much worried and annoyed at the reports which were circulated, and although Lady Georgina Codrington (31) wrote to my father and begged him not to make a fuss about things, he suddenly became very angry and declared he would leave London for good and take me with him.
A most distressing scene followed. I said that, as there was no evil in my friendship with Lord Cardigan (50), I refused to give up his acquaintance, or to be taken into the country against my will, and I steadily defied my father and brothers to make me alter my decision. Family quarrels are, perhaps, the most rankling of any, for they are generally retaliative, and much is said that is never forgotten or quite forgiven; ours was no exception, and the result of it was that I decided to leave home. With me, to think has always been to act, so I ordered my horse " Don Juan " to be brought round, and I rode away to liberty. My own income rendered me perfectly independent; I put up at a quiet hotel in Hyde Park Square, and looked about for a furnished house. I did not go into exile alone, for my father's valet, Mathews, came with me, and his fidelity was well rewarded when he entered Lord Cardigan's service after our marriage.
I was lucky enough to find a charming little furnished house in Norfolk Street Park Lane, and I installed myself there with Mathews and three other servants. It was a quiet household, and although at first things seemed strange to me, I was very happy. I rode with Cardigan (50) every day in the Park, regardless of the averted glances of those who had once called themselves my friends. I often wonder why friendship is so apostrophised, for real friends in trouble are practically non-existent, especially at the moment they are most needed. The ideal friend, whose aim in life should be to forget "base self", as the poets say, is as extinct as the Dodo, and those who talk most about friendship are usually the first to forget what is the true meaning of the word.
On the morning of July 12, 1858, I was awakened by a loud knocking at the front door. I looked at my watch, and saw that it was not seven o'clock; I was, needless to say, very alarmed, as I wondered whether anything had happened to my father or my brothers. The knocking continued — I heard the bolts drawn, the door opened, and a voice I knew well called impatiently for me. It was Lord Cardigan (60) ! I had just time to slip on a dressing-gown before he came into my room, sans ceremonie, and taking me in his arms he said, "' My dearest, she's (60) dead ... let's get married at once". Then I knew that the trying period of our probation was over, and that we were free to be happy together at last.
When Cardigan (60) grew calmer he told me he had just come from his wife's (60) death-bed. The poor lady (60) had urged him to marry me, saying she knew that I should make him happy. She had also warned him against Maria, Marchioness of Ailesbury (45), the extent of whose love affairs, it appears, was only known to Lady Cardigan (60), who told his Lordship (60) the unvarnished truth about them.
As I did not wish to insult the memory of the dead woman (60), who had shown me so many kindnesses, I refused to marry Cardigan (60) until some time had elapsed. He went to Ireland in his official capacity of Inspector of Cavalry, and I lived on quietly at Norfolk Street till September, when I left London for Cowes. I then went on board Lord Cardigan's yacht the Airedale, where he and a party of friends were awaiting me, and we sailed for Gibraltar.
Nothing particular occurred en route; we were all in the best of spirits, and I felt as though I were the Princess in some delightful fairy-tale. The day after we arrived at Gibraltar there was a terrible storm, almost tropical in its violence. Roofs were torn off houses and whirled, light as dead leaves, through the air, great trees were uprooted, heavy masonry fell everywhere, and the ships tossed about like cockle-shells in the harbour. It was almost a scene from the Inferno, and our horror was intensified when we saw the signals from a French vessel in distress. Nobody seemed inclined to put out, so I begged Lord Cardigan (60) to send the Airedale to try and save the crew. He assented, and through this timely aid from our yacht fourteen men were rescued, and we also took a French poodle off a raft to which he was clinging, his owner doubtless having been drowned.
On September 28, 1858, my marriage took place at the Military Chapel Gibraltar, and I was the first Countess of Cardigan to be married on foreign soil, I wore a white silk gown draped with a blue scarf, and a large hat adorned with many feathers; Lord Cardigan's (60) friends, Stuart Paget, Mrs, Paget and the Misses Paget, were present, and we gave a ball on the yacht in the evening. We spent a very gay week at Gibraltar, and then left for Cadiz, touching at Malacca and Alicante; then we took rail to Madrid, where we arrived on October 16 in time to witness a review of 30,000 troops on Queen Isabella's (27) birthday. After a short stay at Madrid we rejoined the Airedale at Barcelona, and went 500 miles by sea to Leghorn. We experienced bad weather and many storms, and every one on board was ill except myself. The cook was a great sufferer, and his absence was naturally felt by those who were able to look at food without aversion.
From Leghorn we went to Elba, when I saw the place Napoleon embarked from after the "hundred days". We left the Airedaie at Civiti Vecchia and started for Rome in our travelling-carriage with six horses, escorted by some of the Papal Guard sent by the Pope to protect us. I met many of my friends in the Eternal City; I saw everything worth seeing during my delightful sojourn there, and before we left Lord Cardigan and I were blessed by the Pope at an audience we had with his Holiness. As I wished to go to Genoa by sea, we returned to Civita Vecchia and set out in the yacht for Genoa, where we landed; we went from there to Turin, and on by rail by the Mont Cenis route to Paris.
Paris was then a city of delight, revelling in the palmy days of the Second Empire, and I greatly enjoyed my visit there. One night I went to the Opera with Cardigan and we saw Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Trelawney in a box. Mrs. Trelawney was the famous Miss Howard, once the English mistress of Louis Napoleon (50), who paid her £250,000 when he renounced her to marry Eugenie de Montijo (32). Mrs. Trelawney annoyed the Emperor (50) and Empress (32) as much as she dared by sitting opposite the Royal box at the Opera, and driving almost immediately behind the Empress's (32) carriage in the Bois de Boulogne. She was a very fat woman, and her embonpoint increased to such an extent that the doors of her carriage had to be enlarged to allow her to get in and out with comfort.
Clarence Trelawney was a friend of mine, and the poor fellow came to a sad end. After his wife's death he married an American lady, but unfortunately he got into debt. He appealed to his relations, who were very wealthy but apparently equally mean, for they refused to lend him the £400 he asked for, and driven desperate by worry he blew out his brains.
From Paris we came to London and stayed at Lord Cardigan's town-house in Portman Square Marylebone; then we went to Deene on December 14, where we met with a royal reception, six hundred tenants on horseback escorting our carriage from the station to the house.
In January 1859, I went to the House of Lords to hear the debate from the Peeresses Gallery. I was sitting near the Duchess of Cambridge (61) and Princess Mary (25), when Maria, Marchioness of Ailesbury (46), made her appearance. I had not met her since my marriage, but I could see by her look that for some reasons of her own she meant to cut me, so I thought I would carry the war into the enemy's camp, and just as she was about to pass me, I said, "Oh, Lady Ailesbury, you may Hke to know that before Lady Cardigan (61) died she told my Lord (61) all about you and your illegitimate children ! ".
Lady A. (46) looked nervously round and said in an agitated whisper, " Hush, hush, my dear, I'm coming to lunch with you to-morrow". She never asked me what Lady Cardigan had particularly said, but from that day we were outwardly the best of friends.
On my return to England as Countess of Cardigan, I need hardly say that every one was very anxious to be on good terms with me, and my own family were the first to make peaceful overtures. I had no wish to keep up the quarrel. As my marriage plainly showed how right I was in trusting Cardigan, and the motives of our much-discussed friendship were now openly vindicated, I let bygones be by-gones, and we were all good friends again.
I was ideally happy, and I do not believe any one could be a more devoted husband than Lord Cardigan (61) was. There seemed no disparity in our ages, for he was full of the joy of life and entered into everything with the zest of a young man, and he appeared to have quite forgotten his unhappy life with his first wife.
Our marriage was a veritable romance; we enjoyed all the good things life could give us, but in his own happiness Cardigan (61) never failed to extend a helping hand to the less fortunate, and among our tenantry the name of the Earl of Cardigan is even now a synonym for all that is generous and kind.
We entertained a great deal both at Deene and Portman Square, and for the first three years of our married life Lord Cardigan never allowed any one but himself to take me in to dinner. I had to persuade him at last to give up this very flattering habit, and so he did not monopolise me quite so much in future.
At Deene I was always with my husband. Lord Cardigan did not care much for the books, music and painting which appealed so strongly to my temperament; he only cared for walking, driving and riding, and naturally I put my own hobbies aside and entered into all his favourite pursuits. We constantly rode together. I had beautiful horses, and my husband delighted in praising my "graceful carriage" and my "fine horse-manship", which was much talked about in hunting circles.
When Lord Cardigan (61) transacted any business matters connected with his great estates, he always insisted on my being in the room and listening to all the details. " You will have to do this by yourself one day", he would say to me.
Alas ! after only ten years of happiness the time came when I was to lose my dear husband. He had had a bad fall in the hunting-field in 1862, which resulted in the formation of a clot of blood in his brain, and consequently he suffered at times from a kind of seizure. He gave strict orders that I was never to be told when one occurred, and, oddly enough, I never saw him taken ill in this way.
One fine March morning he told me that he was going to ride and see a gamekeeper who had accidentally shot himself.
He asked me and Sir Henry Edwards (55) to accompany him, but when we reached the keeper's cottage he told us to return to Deene, saying that as he intended to sit an hour with the man he would come on later. We declared our willingness to wait, but Cardigan would not hear of it, and so we somewhat reluctantly rode home without him.
The luncheon hour arrived, but Lord Cardigan did not come; the afternoon dragged on, and still there were no signs of him. I had a horrible presentment that something must have happened, and at once ordered some of the servants to go in search of his Lordship.
My fears were only too well grounded; my husband was found lying insensible on the roadside, nearly lifeless. A roadmender told us afterwards that Lord Cardigan had passed him and spoken a few words and seemed apparently quite well; the horse he was riding shied at a heap of stones and commenced to rear and plunge rather wildly, but my husband kept the animal well under control, for the roadmender saw him ride quietly away. The effort must, however, have afterwards brought on a seizure, for Cardigan fell from his horse, and lay helpless until he was found and brought back to Deene.
For three dreadful days and nights he lay quite unconscious, gasping for breath, and the knowledge that he could not speak to me and did not recognise me intensified my grief a thousandfold. But mercifully his suffering was not prolonged, and on March 28, 1868, my beloved husband passed away.
There are some griefs that are too deep to speak of, even after Time's soothing touch has taken away the first deadly pain of a great sorrow. When I look back and remember the kindness and love which my husband lavished on me, I feel proud to think he often said that the happiest period of his life was after he married me, and that his great possessions and military fame were as nothing compared to the wife he adored.
Lord Cardigan's body lay in state in the ballroom at Deene for twelve days, during which time six thousand people came to look their last at the remains of the leader of the Charge of the Light Brigade. On April 9 he was buried in Deene Church; the whole regiment of the 11th Hussars attended the funeral, and he was carried to his last resting-place by eight of his old officers.
When the will was read, it was found that he had left everything to me.
The estates were heavily mortgaged, and since Cardigan's death I have paid off £365,000 of the mortgages, which by the terms of the will was not compulsory for me to do. I have also spent £200,000 on the estate, and the many modern improvements now at Deene (which in past years was more gorgeous than comfortable) are entirely due to me.
After the will had been read. Lord Ernest Bruce (47) and my brother, Colonel de Horsey (33), went for a stroll in the park. They were discussing the contents of the will, and Lord Ernest (47) said cheerfully, " Well, it's a good thing for Robert (13), as Lady Cardigan won't last long ". " Look here, my Lord", replied my brother in an icy tone, "you seem to forget you are talking about my sister"..