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Aristocratic Women and Political Society in Victorian Britain$

K. D. Reynolds

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780198207276

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198207276.001.0001

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‘The Lady at their Head’: Women and the Landed Estates

‘The Lady at their Head’: Women and the Landed Estates

(p.26) 1 ‘The Lady at their Head’: Women and the Landed Estates
Aristocratic Women and Political Society in Victorian Britain

K. D. Reynolds

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

For aristocratic women, the meanings of home and family were radically different from the middle-class ideal. There is a great contrast between the actual experiences of aristocratic women in the field of domestic and estate management and the model of ideal womanhood promoted around ideas of the home. Households, estates, and their attendant business, occupied most aristocratic women in great measure. Providing the physical and territorial basis of aristocratic authority, maintaining ties of dependency and patronage, and creating the economic security which underpinned the edifice of aristocratic culture, the great houses and estates were much more than homes. The women who ran them were much more than glorified housekeepers. Their contributions to the management of estates were rarely strategic, but were in the less easily quantifiable realm of daily observation and supervision.

Keywords:   household, estate management, industry, home, family

The construction of the home as the dominant, legitimate sphere for women by middle-class commentators from the 1790s to the 1880s has been well documented by historians both in Britain and in the United States.1 While John Ruskin's classic exposition of the ‘true nature of home’ in his 1864 lecture ‘Of Queens’ Gardens'2 can no longer be accepted as either definitive or descriptive, his romantic vision of the home as ‘a sacred place, a vestal temple’, guarded and inspired by representatives of ‘pure womanhood’, continues to colour our understanding of the lives of Victorian women. The home in Ruskin's conception was not a physical location but a state of mind, of withdrawal from ‘the inconsistently-minded, unknown, unloved, or hostile society of the outer world’, to the ‘place of peace’. It was a place of Pooter-esque values, of keeping oneself to oneself, where guests were a rarity and an unwelcome intrusion into the family circle. This ideal home had no purpose beyond the servicing of its immediate members, the nuclear family unit; in turn, the constant reproduction of home and family for its own sake—the creation of a ‘haven in a heartless world’, in Christopher Lasch's evocative phrase—became the normative function for women.3 While superficially similar, aristocratic homes and families were constructed in relation to an entirely different ideological model. For aristocratic women, the meanings of home and family anteceded and were radically different from the middle-class ideal.

Historians of the family have seen the dominance of the companionate marriage and the nuclear family as the leading characteristics of nineteenth-century family life, trends which have also been noted in changing architectural (p.27) styles.4 It would be misleading to suggest that these trends had no effect on the aristocracy—Judith Schneid Lewis has conclusively demonstrated their impact on aristocratic childbearing, for example.5 But an older understanding of the family, as a dynastic, kinship network persisted in aristocratic circles throughout the nineteenth century. Their families did not merely consist of parents and children, tended by physically and socially distanced servants, but in large networks of relationships, bound together by kinship, patronage, and dependence (what in Scotland was, and is, aptly termed ‘the connexion’). The ‘Whig Cousinhood’ of the first half of the century was only the most prominent (and, arguably, most successful) of these continuing networks.6 Marriage remained a matter of dynastic alliances, with transmission of property high on the list of priorities in the selection of a mate, as the novels of the period, notably those of Anthony Trollope, amply demonstrate. The increasingly romantic ideas of marriage which young aristocratic women shared with women of the middle class could be allowed to flourish in perfect safety as the increasingly rigid mechanisms of Society and the season permitted them to meet only their social equals.7 Even archetypally private experiences, such as pregnancy and childbirth, carried public significance among the aristocracy, where the birth of an heir, preferably male, was of paramount importance for the perpetuation of the family tradition and the transmission of its property.8 Moreover, when an heir was satisfactorily produced, the occasion would be marked with a public celebration, involving not only the extended family, but also tenants, servants, and labourers.9 As the significance of the family extended beyond its immediate members, so the roles of women within it had enhanced meanings. The metaphor of separate spheres can only be made to apply to aristocratic women by ignoring the ways in which public and private life converged in their experience.

(p.28) More importantly, the aristocratic household had functions, meaning, and consequence beyond the servicing of the immediate family, which involved aristocratic women in a variety of activities inconceivable in the introverted middle-class home. Far removed from Ruskin's ‘vestal temple’, where only the beloved could enter, the aristocratic household in the nineteenth century exhibited a continuity of tradition with the country houses and London palaces of previous generations. Far from being places of retreat, they were the public arena in which the aristocracy reinforced and reinvented its power, maintained their dominance over rural communities, engaged in the political life of the nation, and sought to fulfil their dynastic ambitions.10 Not ‘homes’ in Ruskin's sense, the houses and households of the aristocracy, modelled on the political courts of monarchs, were sophisticated tools, used to uphold and enhance the status of the family. Aristocratic households were political structures; their relationship with the estates from which they drew their wealth also gave them an extensive economic role which had no counterpart in the bourgeois home. The country house was a ‘centre of a considerable complex of social and business responsibilities’:11 in contributing to the maintenance of these households, aristocratic women simultaneously fulfilled and undermined the expectations of their gendered roles.

There is a great contrast between the actual experiences of aristocratic women in the field of domestic and estate management and the model of ideal womanhood so vigorously promoted around ideas of the home. In this they differed from women of other classes (about whom considerable scholarly energy has been expended in demonstrating the hollowness of the ‘feminine ideal’) less than widely held images of aristocratic females (as pampered, leisured parasites, social butterflies, or do-gooding ladies bountiful) suggest. To draw this contrast, we must establish what exactly it was that aristocratic women did in their households, on their estates, and in their families' economic enterprises. By accumulating evidence of their involvement in such activities and analysing the nature of their participation, a modified image emerges, of women active in promoting the interests and in asserting the local authority of their families.

The Household

The scale of the aristocratic household, and the commensurate size of the task of running it, differentiated it sharply from the middle-class home. Few (p.29) aristocratic families restricted themselves to a single house. Most would expect to spend the social and parliamentary season in London, if not annually, then at least when they had daughters to marry or when significant activity was taking place in the House of Lords. Many owned town houses—the Jerseys lived in Berkeley Square, the Salisburys in Arlington Street, while Stafford, Devonshire, and Montagu Houses were the London residences of the dukes of Sutherland, Devonshire, and Buccleuch respectively. Less wealthy, and less regular, participants in the London season either rented houses in the fashionable districts, or put up in private hotels, such as St George's Hotel in Albemarle Street, where the duchess of Athole stayed in 1856.12 In addition to a London base, many aristocratic families acquired, through purchase, marriage, and inheritance, a variety of country houses in different parts of the kingdom. The fashion for shooting deer and grouse and the royal patronage of Scotland made a shooting lodge in ‘North Britain’ a sine qua non of the later Victorian period. The duke of Somerset regularly lived in his houses at Maiden Bradley near Bath, Stover Lodge in Devon, and Bulstrode Park near Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire. The Wharncliffes' houses were Wortley Hall, near Sheffield; Belmont Castle in Perthshire, and Simonston, York. Even relatively impoverished aristocratic families, such as that of the fifth earl of Portsmouth (burdened with twelve children) maintained two country houses, Hurstbourne Park in Hampshire and Eggesford House in Devon. The aristocratic household in the nineteenth century persisted in the medieval tradition of peregrination between houses and estates, partly for reasons of fashion and variety, but more importantly as a method of reinforcing their authority and social dominance over their widespread estates.13

The degree to which aristocratic women were directly involved in, and responsible for, the maintenance of the household varied considerably, as did the extent to which households were subjected to a division of managerial labour along gendered lines. In larger households, such as that of the duchesses of Sutherland, daily superintendence was placed in the hands of an upper servant or agent (usually male); in such cases, the role of the aristocratic woman can be likened to that of a company director, whose competence and expectations stimulate the efficient functioning of the firm, without her becoming directly involved in the functioning of any specific department. As Harriet Sutherland's obituarist remarked: ‘The ordering of a very large establishment indoor and out of doors must always be a true (p.30) test of the right understanding of her duties towards her household by the Lady at their head.’14 The importance of having a female at the head of the domestic establishment is highlighted by the practice of unmarried men and widowers calling on the services of unmarried sisters or other female relatives to oversee their establishments: Alice Balfour's supervision of the household of A. J. Balfour is one of the best-known examples.15 In Castle Richmond, Trollope observed the necessity of a female at the head of the domestic arrangements of a household, for the steadying and moralizing influence of ‘tea and small talk’, and for the correct management of both servants and guests. In an authorial aside, he remarked: ‘When I hear of a young man sitting down by himself as the master of a household, without a wife, or even without a mother or sister to guide him, I always anticipate danger.’16

Aristocratic women were not, either through choice or necessity, domestic figure-heads, and all involved themselves to a greater or lesser degree with the management of their households. Some personally supervised the minute details of the daily regulation of the household. Mary Minto was one such, as her correspondence with two former servants in 1847 reveals. James Garner, clearly a butler, wrote that he was ‘sorry that the Spoons seem not to be right, but I think the mistake is in the 6 Egg Spoons being counted with the Tea Spoons. I understood that they had always been counted so as to make 50 altogether … I counted the Housekeepers Room Plate over to Mrs Smart before leaving Minto.’17 And Martha Willis, probably a housekeeper, who had moved on to the household of the earl of Stair in Wigtownshire, was also called to account for missing property. She was ‘sorry to hear that so much has been missed but there must be some mistake I am quite sure the d'oylies were right also the soap cloths dresser cloths and kitchen rubbers … I can truthfully say that I did not miss the linen or I should have mentioned it before leaving your Ladyship.’18 It is hard to envisage great ladies like Harriet Sutherland worrying over the whereabouts of a few spoons and old dishcloths, but as we shall see, she too involved herself closely in the general supervision of her household and staff.

The scope for corruption in aristocratic households was immense: servants and other employees could profit from their employers' absence by purchasing additional goods and then selling them, or by appropriating materials, for example. It was for this purpose that detailed accounting (p.31) procedures were set up in these households, which applied to purchases made outside the estate and to the transfer of goods inside the estate, from the gardens to the house, from the farms to the house and stables, and from the game preserves. When Beatrix Cadogan made enquiries about the system of board wages for servants at Gorhambury (by which the servants were paid a weekly allowance for their food, rather than being allowed to eat at the expense of the family), Elizabeth, countess of Verulam, replied that they found the system to be economical, to create less waste, and that the servants liked it, except the cook, ‘and I believe the plain English of that is that she cannot get so large a profit out of the dripping and other perquisites’.19

In 1840, the Sutherlands' agent James Loch drew up a detailed set of regulations for the household at their Scottish seat, Dunrobin Castle, in the duke's name, with intent to control the expenditure of the establishment.20 This example serves as a reminder that although the aristocratic woman was often depicted as the principal agent in the management of the household, the household was by no means an exclusively female domain. Not only was the direct supervision of the household in the hands of a male agent (and it is worth remembering that in the hierarchies of servants, the butler took precedence over the female establishment), but it is also clear that the duke had regular responsibilities in authorizing the expenditure of the household; the regulations of the household were given not in the name of the duchess, but of the duke.21 Some years later, the next duchess of Sutherland produced a memorandum for the duke of Newcastle about the management of a large household, demonstrating the grasp of the system which was necessary, even for women who could delegate their authority to agents.22 She described the finances of the household in some detail, mirroring the practice of the previous generation and pointing out by implication the dangers (p.32) of a more lax accounting procedure. Once or twice a week, order-books were submitted to the duke or his secretary, whose authority was needed for new purchases. When the bills were payable, they were sent to the secretary, who compared them with the order-books. Anne Sutherland explained the sanctions procedure against erring servants and uncooperative tradesmen which came into effect if the accounting process was abused or ignored:

If the bill contains items which do not appear in the order book strike them out of the bill & direct the tradesman to send the bill to the person who gave the irregular order & who is responsible. Tradespeople very soon fall in with this plan—and if an old one does not a new one will gladly for the sake of the custom.23

Despite the necessity of the duke's authority for financial transactions, Anne Sutherland had a clear grasp of the value of money and the operation of the market. The household accounts from Blair Castle (Table 1.1) give a good indication of the scale of expenditure that might be expected in a ducal household; the Atholes' self-perceived poverty meant that control over expenditure was rigorous, and from the duchess's frequent reminders to the duke about their financial situation, we can infer that she had a clear grasp of the accounts. (By contrast, Frances Anne Londonderry's Ascot week expenses in 1859 amounted to £189. 2s. 8d.—more than it cost to light Blair Castle for a whole year—which included the rent of a house and carriages, and food and drink for around forty guests and the servants.24) Anne Athole evidently took a direct hand in organizing the household, and demonstrated little faith in her husband's ability to take her place in her absence, as, for instance, when she was in waiting at Balmoral in 1862, wondering aloud ‘if you will remember to give Seammen a cheque for the Servants wages to-day’.25

One of the most important respects in which the tasks of household management can be interpreted as having a public aspect lies in the fact that through it the aristocratic woman became a direct employer of labour on a considerable scale.26 Census returns provide an indication of the numbers and kinds of servants employed, and also reflect the shifting patterns of employment. The Sutherlands were at Stafford House in London for the 1841 census, with five of their children. In attendance were forty-one other persons, most of whom appear to have been servants.27 Ten years later, also (p.33)








Annual Extras





1374. 13. 0

118. 0. 1

163. 6. 1. 5

297. 4. 6

180. 18. 7. 5

312. 9. 7

214. 13. 7

692. 15. 9

743. 17. 5

£4097. 18. 8


1111. 19. 6

85. 13. 7. 5

130. 11. 1. 5

165. 3. 8

171. 14. 8. 5

205. 13. 6

161. 2. 9. 5

759. 17. 8. 25

773. 13. 7

£3565. 9. 8. 25


1678. 9. 8. 5

157. 19. 10

119. 19. 5. 5

234. 4. 10

155. 3. 4. 5

199. 9. 8

257. 17. 11

972. 18. 6. 5

762. 8. 7

£4538. 11. 11


1705. 11. 9. 5

170. 4. 6

262. 18. 3

189. 11. 3

205. 14. 2. 5

541. 10. 1

275. 15. 4

807. 13. 4

852. 4. 8. 75

£5011. 3. 2. 75


1707. 16. 4. 5

175. 4. 1. 5

289. 9. 2. 25

207. 19. 6

82. 18. 4

284. 2. 3

347. 15. 8. 5

793. 14. 1

788. 8. 11

£4677. 8. 4

Source: ‘Abstract of Household Expenses’, Atholl MSS, Bundle 38.

(p.34) at Stafford House, with three (different) children, the duke and duchess were served by thirty-six members of staff, including a tutor, a governess, the duke's secretary, a confectioner, a cook, eight housemaids, and three kitchen-maids.28 The business of maintaining a full complement of servants was a time-consuming one, despite having the pick of the market: unlike the ubiquitous images drawn from costume dramas, few households retained the same personnel over long periods of time, although it was hoped that key personnel, such as the butler, steward, housekeeper, and cook would stay for some time. There were many reasons for this fluctuating employment market, not least of which was the practice of taking on new staff at each place of residence and dismissing them when the employer moved on. In this they differed from the gentry families who constitute the focus of Jessica Gerard's work, who were more likely to have only one residence and to retain their staff over many years.29 Changing needs in the household also accounted for altering household composition. The Portsmouths and their ten children, aged between 1 and 15 years old, were looked after by twenty-three servants at Eggesford House in 1871, of whom five—two governesses, the nurse, the nursery maid, and the schoolroom maid—were directly concerned with the children.30 It is also worth recording that parents and children frequently resided in different houses, requiring the maintenance of more than one household at a time. Thus in 1861, the recently widowed Harriet Sutherland was at Cliveden with some of her children and grand-children and thirty-one servants; Trentham was in the hands of ten servants, and at Stafford House, her 9-year-old grandson, now marquess of Stafford, and two of his sisters were in the charge of a tutor and a governess and sixteen other servants. Likewise, when the childless Frances Waldegrave became the guardian of her second husband's two nieces, she set up separate establishments for them at Dudbrook House in Essex and in London.31

Most aristocratic households maintained a minimal permanent staff at all their houses, even when the owners were absent. At Hurstbourne Park, the Portsmouth's Hampshire property, the census of 1861 reveals a staff of four—a housekeeper, two housemaids, and a male servant—while in 1871, the pattern is repeated, with a housekeeper, three housemaids, a cellarman, and an 88-year-old woman, described as a servant, but almost certainly a pensioner rather than an active employee.32 Some crucial servants—the (p.35) lady's maid and the valet—would travel with the family on most occasions, but other servants would be moved as and when required: for example, in September 1853 Lady Palmerston summoned her butler, Singleton, and a kitchen maid to come to London from Broad lands to receive Lord Palmerston and herself.33

Other households would employ staff only on a temporary basis, when their residence on an estate required a full complement of staff; this undoubtedly contributed to the temporary nature of much domestic service, and the constant activity of aristocratic women in the business of employing servants and seeking employment for former servants. Typically, Lady Lyttelton sent a lady's maid to Mary Minto, who was looking for such a person for her soon-to-be-married daughter. The servant ‘lived with me last year for several months, & was dismissed because I was going abroad’.34 A study from 1899 showed that the average length of time that a domestic servant stayed in one position was less than two years.35 The implication of this for the employers—usually, but not always, women—was a constant search for reliable and, for some positions, long-term service. Susan, Lady Wharncliffe's generally uninformative diary records, without comment, the hiring and firing of servants on a regular basis.36 After interviewing a Mr Lewis for the post of butler, Anne Athole wrote to her husband (interestingly describing the contents of her letter as ‘business’) thus:

Several people came to see me as I passed thro' London, wishing for the situation, but I would not see any of them, as I had heard from Mr Benham of this superior man, & I determined to wait & see if he would like us upon investigation, (as somebody probably Mr Mabe [a previous applicant] had been giving us a bad character which of course has come to naught) and as he has come here to see me I presume he means to like us very much, as he told me he was not fond of change, & if he suited, he would like to remain with us—I said that was just what we would like, & that I was so satisfied with him, that I would be willing to write for his character immediately.37

The production of references was vital for employment, and the refusal to give a ‘character’ would effectively end a servant's hopes of getting another position. Giving references in the aristocratic world was a serious business, (p.36) as any inaccuracies could be brought home to the referee by an enraged employer, as Emily Cowper found when she recommended a maid to Mary Minto:

I am quite concerned to think Mellor should not have suited you …. perhaps her manner on first acquaintance may lead one to think her fine, but I never found her so, & the recommendations I had with her said quite the contrary … I never found her make any difficulty about any thing—otherwise I should certainly not have praised her as much as I did. I only mention this to clear myself—for I would on no account give a character lightly—as I know the trouble of trying different people & finding they don't suit.38

The system of personal recommendation could require a long memory. Lord Clanricarde sought references from Frances Waldegrave for Henry May, who was applying for a position as hall porter, who claimed to have been in her service ten years previously, prior to going into business for himself.39

Presentation counted for a great deal among aristocratic servants, as they represented their families, rather as receptionists do to-day. Thus for Anne Athole it was of no small importance that the appearance of the applicant to be her butler met with her approval: ‘His age is 42,’ she wrote, ‘& his appearance is quite in his favor, a good height, tho' not so tall as Mr Baker, & stouter; extremely respectable looking, & a very pleasant address. In short to my mind he looks like what our upper servant ought to look like.’40 Lady Palmerston also had a clear sense of the importance of appearances, and of the hierarchy among servants which reflected the social status of their employers. Staying in Brighton with her daughter, the countess of Shaftesbury, she sent for her butler to provide appropriate service for a dinner for the duke of Devonshire, because ‘I felt ashamed of my set out, and thought it better to have Singleton to put everything straight…. Minny's Footman who takes precedence of mine is such a Vulgar little fellow. I think he would shock the Duke's delicacy and tact.’41

It will be surmised that the relationship between the aristocratic woman and her servants was an important part of a continuing tradition of patronage, which in many ways set the aristocratic household apart from the inward-looking middle-class home. In what was perhaps a remnant of the medieval understanding of the household, in which for servants, ‘the (p.37) household was not just a place of work or trade, but a field for political, social and economic advancement’,42 aristocratic employers frequently solicited their friends and relations for new jobs for their departing servants, and were often called upon to exercise their patronage in favour of former servants, in either promotion, finding employment, or charity.43 The relationship between aristocrat and domestic servant was thus often seen and exploited as one conferring obligation on the aristocrat to continue to maintain the interests of her clients, even after the supposed basis for the relationship, the employment, had terminated.

The patronage relationship did not benefit the servant exclusively. The existence of this aristocratic network assisted both those seeking employment and the employers themselves, providing the employers with a reliable source of suitable candidates for the available positions, guaranteed by the personal knowledge of friends and relations.44 Harriet Sutherland told Gladstone that she had ‘engaged the attendant of your old Aunt & feel much pleased to have done so & very thankful to you for having thought of her for me’.45 Similarly, succinctly expressing the patronage nature of the relationship between ex-servant and mistress, Anne Sutherland refused with regret a solicitation for re-employment (the position had already been filled), saying ‘I shall always be very glad to be of any use to you that I can.’46

The prospect of long-term patronage was one of the great attractions of aristocratic employment for servants, which partially accounts for the relative lack of difficulty which such households found in attracting good servants. This patronage could be particularly valuable to tutors and governesses, who perhaps came closest to the clients of pre-modern households, in that their social status was superior to that of the domestic staff, but below that of the family and its guests.47 Moreover, their employment span in any given household was naturally limited. Employers could go to considerable lengths to find work for their protégées, perhaps reflecting the fact that governesses were generally of a social class closer to that of their employers than other servants. Thus the baroness de Clifford sought assistance for her children's governess:

(p.38) I have also lately engaged a most excellent French Governess, as though the last was one of the most indefatigable pleasing young women I ever met with, she did not teach French well. I am very desirous of promising her another situation, and should you happen to know any body who wants an English woman, who thoroughly grounds in History, Geography, writing and arithmetic, and the rudiments of Latin, I should be so much obliged to you.48

Similarly, Mrs Robert Arkwright wrote to Lady Jersey offering the services of a ‘very superior Governess’ with ‘unexceptionable’ references.49

The uses of patronage to support aged, ill, or otherwise distressed servants will be examined in greater detail in Chapter 3. The retention of an extremely old servant by the Portsmouths has already been noted; on similar lines, the patronage function of aristocratic families towards their retainers manifested itself in Harriet Sutherland's concern about one of her gardeners, John Mathieson, who had been suffering from ill health. He had been employed at Trentham, and it was suggested that he return to Dunrobin; but, it was reported, he

seemed to fear that he would not be as well ‘cared’ for if he left Trentham. I told him that he must dispell [sic] all such thoughts, as wherever he should be Your Grace's wishes would be carried out. He then decidedly said he would return if he got a cottage to live in. His thoughts seem to be about his wife in case anything happens to him. His wife very truly says that she would be better at Dunrobin if her husband was taken from her.50

Mathieson returned to Scotland, and the duchess received the information that ‘He certainly seems this year in better health, but says he is not capable of any exertion. He helps at the flower garden a [illeg.] in tying up things & much light work as Macdonald can give him.’51 It was, however, understood by the duchess and her agents that as he was no longer able-bodied and was unable to perform heavy labour, his wages would be reduced, about which Jackson (the secretary) anticipated ‘some difficulty’.

Not all servants viewed their relationship with their masters as one of patron and dependant. An undated petition was signed by eleven under-gardeners at Strawberry Hill requesting ‘an Advance of Wages as most of us have to pay 5 shillings per Week for Rent. We have heretofore been Satisfied with our money but provisions and fuel being so dear we can hardly live on the money should this meet with your Approbation we should be most (p.39) thankful.’52 This document reveals as clearly as possible that Frances Waldegrave's gardeners viewed their relationship as being fundamentally one of employer and employee. The aristocratic woman might have perceived the relationship as one of patronage and service, in which she had paternal duties towards her dependants; but the under-gardeners at Strawberry Hill clearly viewed it as an economic relationship, in which they provided labour in return for the means of subsistence. Unfortunately, we do not have Frances Waldegrave's response to this petition.

Once the servants were employed, aristocratic women were by no means free from the difficulties with servants which plagued their middle-class counterparts. The scale of their potential retribution against servants who were adjudged unsatisfactory, particularly in small communities, and their ability to blight a future career, however, meant that an erring servant had few alternatives but to beg forgiveness. Such surely is the subtext of the letter from Thomas Christie to Anne Athole in 1889, in which he wished to

sincerely acknowledge my foolish and blameworthy conduct in Dunkeld House four years ago, … It is the wish of my Father that I should now write Your Grace at Abercairny; and I would therefore humbly approach Your Grace earnestly desiring forgiveness for my past misconduct, and for the trouble and annoyance caused thereby.53

It is not incidental that the father referred to was Anne Athole's agent and factor. The duchess's reply, offering a haughty absolution, also reveals the cause of Christie's offence: ‘I am very willing to forgive the Past, with the hope that you will by God's help be able [to] retrieve your character in the future & entirely give up drink which led you so far astray.’54 The consequences of dismissal could be tragic: revealing the few options available to the unsatisfactory servant, Lady Ashburton recorded:

We are very much upset at the dreadful suicide of B. [Lord Ashburton]'s old Valet, Mason—B. had to give him warning on account of drunkenness… & on Saty. morning the door was locked, & the police entered by the Window, to find him hung up by the Bed post.55

Aristocratic employers tended to be interventionist in the private lives of their servants, setting conditions as to marital status, and attempting to (p.40) forestall any potentially disruptive relationships within their households. Looking for a servant, Harriet Sutherland thought ‘a married person would be quite an objection’56—marriage gave the employee interests beyond those of the household in which he or she served, and limited the amount of time available to be devoted to the employers' interests. Queen Victoria's notorious aversion to the marriages of any of her household, which, along with those of the rest of the royal family, comprised the only household in which persons of rank served in addition to domestic servants, has often been commented on unfavourably;57 it merely reflected the widespread prejudices of aristocratic employers. Setting up house in England after many years abroad in the diplomatic service, Lord Westmorland reported to his wife that ‘The cook has asked for a woman to attend him, which I have agreed to; but the housekeeper is to choose for him, which he has consented to—it would otherwise be too dangerous.’58 The consequences of failure to observe the moral and sexual codes were the same in aristocratic households as elsewhere, but because of the nature of the communities in which most aristocratic estates were situated, where social codes could still enforce marriages, the fate of the pregnant servant could be less harsh. The duke of Athole told his wife that ‘I had to expel yesterday from the House your Mary Robertson. She is to swear her child to Dond. McBeath; it occurred about April last, so will be born next month.’59 Supervision of the morals and behaviour of servants was thus part of the code of paternalist behaviour which aristocrats sought, with varying degrees of success, to perpetuate not just in their houses, but on their estates and in the wider communities which they affected, a theme which will be pursued in later chapters.60

The country house was the preferred habitat of the aristocrat throughout the nineteenth century; aristocratic women were in large measure responsible for the creation and perpetuation of that province. Many were closely engaged in designing and redesigning their physical surroundings; furnishing, decorating, and building their houses in a manner which would facilitate their comfort, display their wealth, status, and taste, and enhance the position of their families occupied women no less than their husbands. Harriet Sutherland took great interest in the furnishings and decoration of her houses, down to such details as the commissioning of a clock for (p.41) Dunrobin, and following up on its delayed appearance.61 On a bigger scale, she took part in the extensive correspondence with Benjamin Wyatt in the 1830s over the plans for, and redecoration of Stafford House, the London palace acquired from the duke of York in 1827.62 The countess of Abingdon took time off from her stormy family life to redesign parts of their house, Wytham Abbey. Her husband reported to his stepmother-in-law that ‘[Lavinia] has got a good plan for improving the dining room without any expense & will save a good deal of paint, by knocking down the pillars, which are no support to the room & merely ornament’.63 Others concerned themselves extensively with their gardens, an important resource for the aristocratic family, as they provided the main form of outdoor recreation for visitors, particularly women, who did not participate in the hunting and shooting expeditions which were for many the raison d'être for visits to the country. Lady Dorothy Nevill's interest in her exotic gardens at Dangstein in Hampshire, and especially in the cultivation of orchids, brought her into contact with many renowned naturalists, including Darwin, extending the range of guests she entertained.64 As with other facets of household management, this interest could take the form of involvement in minute details of planting and cropping the flowers and vegetables which were to adorn the houses and feed the guests, alongside the more abstract and intellectual concerns of Lady Dorothy.65

The work of maintaining the household thus largely fell to the lot of the aristocratic woman. It might even be termed ‘women's work’—although the involvement of men of all ranks in the household requires caution in making such a designation. Indeed, the relationship between a female aristocrat and her male servants provides one of the few examples of a situation in which men could be regularly responsible to women. But the household cannot be said to have existed as a ‘separate sphere’ of female interest, divorced from the interests of men; nor can it be viewed as a private realm diametrically opposed to a masculine, public culture, despite the development of increasingly gendered areas within the house—drawing-rooms, (p.42) billiard- and smoking-rooms, for example.66 In 1855, Benjamin Disraeli, bemoaning the burdens of managing his domestic and estate concerns, wrote to Frances Anne Londonderry:

What you, great personages, do, and how you contrive to manage with so many seats, I am at a loss to conceive. But perhaps you need not know so much as we, little persons, are obliged to become acquainted with. Though, for my part, I think, that in affairs domestic ignorance is bliss, for knowledge seldom benefits you.67

Ignorance of domestic affairs was a luxury which no aristocratic woman could afford; far from knowing less of their affairs than the ‘little people’, they had to have an intimate knowledge of the minutiae of their households, which would enable their smooth functioning as the showcases of aristocratic power and authority. Nor yet did the house comprise the limits of the aristocratic woman's activities.

The Estate

Estate management in the nineteenth century has generally been treated as an exclusively masculine occupation; in the extensive literature on the subject, women seldom feature except as sources of property or as causes of expenditure in the form of dowries for daughters about to be married, maintenance for unmarried daughters, and provision for widows.68 Yet even the most cursory reading of the papers of aristocratic families shows that women were commonly active partners in the economic enterprises of their families. Of course, the extent of their activity depended on particular circumstances: marital status had a significant effect on women's autonomy, the widow of independent means having the greatest scope, the married woman the least. Again, the enterprise was not divided along rigidly (p.43) gendered lines, but, where expediency demanded, could be undertaken by either husband or wife. This joint approach to the management of estates provides a working example of the ‘incorporated wife’—one who plays a necessary part in the execution of a job, which is formally her husband's, for which she receives little or no public recognition (except in the breach), but which none the less could provide a woman with meaningful occupation and a source of self-identification.69 Although the married woman had little formal involvement in the running of estates, and although a discussion of the activities and interests of aristocratic women in the estates can do little to further the complex arguments about the economic aspects of landownership during the period, their activities were often a vital support to the policies of their husbands and agents. It is also worth remembering that for most aristocratic men, as much as for their wives, broad policies and decisions were not the stuff of everyday life: those who engaged regularly with their estates and farms were more usually concerned with the day-to-day issues of the state of the harvest, the weather, the collection of rents, and the condition of the property.

Despite these caveats, the estates played a large part in the lives of many aristocratic women. For most they provided at least a residual concern; if this is insufficient reason for examining their involvement, the position of the widow in possession of her own estates—and indeed the significant numbers of women who were large landowners in their own right for at least a part of their lives—make some consideration of the matter necessary: John Bateman, in his ‘modern Domesday’ survey of 1883, counted some 412 large estates owned by women (by no means all aristocratic). This certainly understates the number of women who owned estates, as Bateman explains that ‘I have given in every case … the son's acres to the father, the Dowager's property in every case where it will probably go back to the main estate, to her eldest son, and the wife's property to the husband’.70 The degree of activity by women on the estates, whether on an occasional or a long-term basis, confirms that aristocratic women were expected by virtue of their social position to play an economic role in the family business. If the role of the aristocratic woman on the estate was essentially one of representing her husband or son to the tenants and labourers in his absence, it was no less important for that, in a hierarchical society where symbols and the (p.44) forms of behaviour counted for a great deal. Moreover, as Thompson has pointed out, the central aristocratic concept in landownership was one of stewardship: land was always held in trust for future generations, and while it was generally expedient for that trust to be executed by and between men, there was no absolute reason for the trust not to be transmitted through women.71 Thus the aristocratic woman was not debarred per se from involvement in estate business, and many took full advantage of the opportunity, although the laws on women's property ownership and capacity to enter into contracts prior to the 1882 Married Women's Property Act made it extremely difficult for a married woman to execute business on her own behalf.72

Representing an absent husband was not merely a symbolic process. It could entail taking on the burdens of daily administration as well, a function for which aristocratic women were not on the whole trained, but which they learned by experience. In 1852, Lord Malmesbury reported that the duchess of Northumberland had turned down the place of mistress of the robes at court, ‘on the plea that she would have to manage the Duke's private business, now that he is First Lord of the Admiralty’.73 The extraordinary Adeline, Lady Cardigan, cannot be regarded as an entirely reliable source, particularly where the affairs of others are concerned, but there is no reason to doubt her statement that ‘When Lord Cardigan transacted any business matters connected with his great estates [principally Deene Park, Northamptonshire], 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.’74 That training was put to early use, as Cardigan died after a decade, leaving Adeline all he possessed. Its success was pointed to by the widow, who took pride in having paid off huge mortgages and spent £200,000 on improvements to the property.75

Most of the burden of estate management would, of course, generally fall on the husband, by convention, convenience, or choice. Frances Waldegrave acquired a great deal of land by the wills of her first three husbands; it is interesting that the agent of her Chewton Priory estate in Somerset communicated almost exclusively with her last husband, Lord Carlingford. The exceptions were requests for cheques to pay wages, or thanks for the (p.45) same, which reveal that if Carlingford was responsible for the day-to-day management decisions, Frances Waldegrave retained her control of the purse-strings, a reversal of the usual pattern that we have seen in relation to household management.76 In the 1870s, Hannah Rothschild inherited at an early age the vast fortune of her father, the banker Baron Meyer Rothschild. Her cousin, Lady Battersea, commented that although Hannah had ‘an excellent head for business’, the burden of estate management was lifted by her marriage to Lord Rosebery in 1878, clearly reflecting the assumption that such work was primarily the business of men, where one was available.77 Of the Sutherlands' agents, the factor at Scoursie directed all his correspondence to the duke.78 George Loch, the general factor of the estates (who had succeeded his better-known father, James, in the same position), on the other hand, clearly fell in with the duchess's plan of relieving her husband of all unnecessary burdens, and corresponded with her on estate matters. Thus in 1856 he consulted her on improving the accommodation at a cottage rented by Lord Elcho at Alt-na-Lynie, and on the renewal of his lease, despite the reservations expressed about the changes by the duke.79 Again, it was to memoranda from Harriet that Loch replied discussing forestry, grass, cottage improvements, the overstocking of the Reay forest with deer, and types of agricultural show.80

Estate improvements, particularly in housing for tenants and labourers, were an area of interest to many aristocratic women, who sometimes took an active part in planning the changes. Lady Westmorland described the creation of gardens for four improved cottages, concluding that ‘You can have no idea how pretty it is. We have also taken away that smithy's shop at the corner near the stables, and which was so ugly, and in its place have built a charming cottage with a garden before and behind.’81 The impact of this kind of prettification on the lives of the inhabitants, and indeed, how they were to manage without the blacksmith on hand, did not seem to enter into Lady Westmorland's calculations. Harriet Sutherland was also involved in the improvement of the housing stock on her estates; she received letters (p.46) from a Mr Fowler discussing the building of cottages, principally concerned with the siting of the new buildings and the colour of stone to be used,82 and commented on the designs to George Loch, who was ‘delighted to hear that Your Grace likes the pauper Cottages—the windows are very convenient, but certainly not becoming’.83

Later in the same month, Loch sent a memorandum to the duchess concerning the replacement of some cottages on the estate, analysing the condition of both the buildings and the inhabitants. With one exception, which was to be retained and repaired, by the duchess's permission, the cottages were ‘wretched huts’. Despite this squalor, one, occupied by ‘Widow Mackenzie a nice respectable old person’ and her son, who was a plasterer, also supported a charity case (an ailing old woman,) of whom Loch wrote ‘I never saw a human being in so distressing a state. These people have always struggled to be independent, and have never applied for parochial relief—they would well deserve some little aid at His Grace's hands.’84 Their home was, none the less, still scheduled for demolition.

The casual disregard for the wishes and interests of the tenants demonstrated in this kind of improvement scheme was nowhere more vividly seen than in the controversial policy of Highland clearance. First put into effect on a massive scale on the Sutherland estates in 1806–20, at the direction of the then owners, the first duke, and Elizabeth, the duchess-countess, who had inherited the estate which included most of the vast county of Sutherland and the earldom of Sutherland in her own right, it was continued under their successors.85 Under this policy, whole communities of crofters and farmers were removed, sometimes forcibly, from the Highland land which they worked and moved to the coasts, leaving the Highlands depopulated and available for more profitable exploitation by the landowners. Duchess Harriet was implicated in the controversy, being accused in the penny press of hypocrisy for her treatment of her tenants as compared with her championing of the African slave, by no less a person than Karl Marx, in an article called ‘Sutherland and Slavery; or, The Duchess at Home’.86 In 1856, a condemnatory letter from Donald Ross was published, which the duchess sent with her comments to George Loch, who replied that, whatever the (p.47) merits of the question, ‘there is one thing which must be acknowledged emphatically, and that is the responsibility incumbent on us all to strive Earnestly to render the result of the changes as beneficial to the people as possible—that it has been so already in a very great degree I am quite sure, as I am that it will continue’.87

Dislike for the policies and attitudes displayed in the duchess's correspondence on the clearances should not blind us to the significance of the correspondence taking place. Aristocratic women could be just as self-interested, authoritarian, and neglectful of their estates as aristocratic men. Lady Palmerston paid the price for neglect when she visited some of hers after an absence of nine years: ‘Your letter found me on a tour of hard labour something like the treadmill, and I was so fatigued every day—with talking and walking, Inspecting Farms and fields and mines making the agreable [sic] and listening to all the various Conflicting reports on the same subject that I was quite worn out.’88 On the death of the third Lord Melbourne in 1853, Emily Palmerston succeeded to the family estates of Melbourne Hall and Brocket. On a visit to the former, she spent the morning admiring the place, and visiting the tenants with Fox, the agent.89 However, the house was surplus to requirements, so she arranged with the agent to let the property, setting detailed conditions—including the hope that the tenant would ‘not want to have a Laundry at home’—for the agreement herself.90

As we have seen, the economic needs of the landowning family, and even their aesthetic preferences, took precedence over the needs and wishes of their tenants. Moreover, the conduct of estates could become a politically charged question: in 1850, Sir Robert Peel put his estate concerns before the public, in an attempt to lessen the hostility of the protectionist party to the repeal of the Corn Laws. The protectionist duke of Rutland was disgusted, and told Lady Londonderry, who probably shared his gloomy prognostications: ‘I am in continual C[onflict?] with my Tenants, but I should think myself full of Presumption if I were to imagine that the Publick could feel an interest in the Transactions of my Steward's Office here. I think we shall before 12 months have passed, be obliged to lower our Rents by one half and to shut up our House.’91 In times of economic hardship and social tension, the fear of encouraging other tenants to demand rent reductions must surely (p.48) have been the duke's motivation for inhibiting press discussion of estate business, rather than any fear of fatiguing the delicate sensibilities of the reading public. The Londonderrys' tenants entered into the fray, demanding rent reductions, but were withstood by their landlords, who received Rutland's congratulations on the ‘Triumphant Pleasure to you & L.—that your Tenantry have seen and acknowledged the Errors of their ways’.92 Rutland's violent conservatism caused him to be deeply unpopular on his own estates in the early 1850s; he was unable to rent the farms immediately surrounding Belvoir Castle, and could not leave its walls ‘without being assail' d and importuned’.93 The prevailing image of the aristocratic woman as ‘lady bountiful’, dispensing charity and goodwill about her husband's estates, tends to obscure the fact that she shared her husband's economic interests and attitudes; it would be a mistake to assume that the involvement of women in estate management entailed any weakening of aristocratic interests, or soft-heartedness towards tenants.

Irish landownership had its peculiar difficulties for aristocratic women who had been brought up on the British mainland, involving residence in an alien country, among an often hostile and intensely suffering people. A great many aristocrats held lands in Ireland, contributing by their infrequent residence to all the problems of absenteeism which fuelled Irish resistance to British rule. The Palmerstons took the opportunity of the fall of the Whig ministry in 1841 to make a rare tour of inspection of their Irish property in County Sligo;94 the Londonderrys had lands in Counties Down, Derry, Donegal, and Antrim, most of which they visited infrequently, Mount Stewart in Derry being the exception, until Lady Londonderry built her retreat, Garron Tower, on the Antrim coast.95 Indeed, the Londonderrys were positively discouraged from paying their first visit (in 1846, twenty-four years after succeeding to the estates) by their Irish agent, who was afraid that such a visit would raise the hopes of the Irish tenants as to the abandoning of their rents during the Famine, which the agent was resisting strongly.96 The visit (p.49) was paid the following year, and Lady Londonderry was congratulated by the duke of Rutland, who considered that ‘Such an Excursion as you have made, if followed up by all the Owners of Irish Property, would soon solve the Riddle of Irish ungovernableness, on which so many volumes have been written.’97(Neglect of estates was not confined to Ireland; in 1856 the duke of Somerset visited some of his estates in Cambridgeshire for the first time, and showed a considerable disdain for them to his wife: ‘My property here seems to be much scattered and in every respect as uninteresting, and except for its rental, as undesirable as possible.’98)

Some women, such as Louisa, marchioness of Waterford, took to life in Ireland with enthusiasm. After her marriage, she lived there virtually permanently, despite the nightmare of the Great Famine, throughout which she and Lord Waterford worked to relieve some of the worst consequences on their estates by employing their tenants in improvement works. Lady Canning, her sister, remarked that ‘she is such a real Irish woman now that she willingly consents to spend her whole life in Ireland if she thinks she can be of the least use’.99 Louisa Waterford left Ireland only after the early death of her husband in 1852. Less happy was the sister of the duchess of St Albans, who married a Mr Blake, the duke of Marlborough's Irish agent. Unlike the aristocratic woman married to a landowner, Edith Blake was subject to the will of her husband's employer, who did not make their lives comfortable:

They have got such a nice house, & had just had all to rights, when orders came from the Duke of Marlborough they were to move to Thane, a filthy place in the wilds of Galway, scarcely a soul to speak to, & a most desolate spot in a very disturbed district. … [Edith] is in despair at this uprooting.100

The employment of a good factor or agent was crucial to the well-being of an estate, and women were often involved in their selection. When a good factor was found, he was looked after as a treasure: the duchess of Sutherland's offer to send round the doctor to attend to George Loch when he was unwell was not necessarily an entirely disinterested one.101 The (p.50) marquess of Hertford, in weighing up the pros and cons of a removal from one rented estate to another, considered the fact that his wife ‘would have no head man like Brebuer to apply to in difficulty when I am absent’ to be one of the major considerations against the proposal.102 The reliance that was placed on a factor or agent was great, and not only in matters directly connected to the management of farms and tenants. In 1896, the widowed duchess of Athole was irritated to find herself with the returns for the registration of county voters to complete, and no factor on hand to perform the task. She wrote in indignation to her companion, cousin, and secretary, Emily Murray MacGregor,

There!—The Factor has gone to France! What do you think should be done about the Papers? I cannot fill them up you know, & unless you were at Dunkeld to refer to the last batch, I doubt if you could. It strikes me, that wretched ‘hard working’ Factor forgot all about them, otherwise perhaps Gillespie could have been left with the means of filling them up, & returning them—and now, can he not do something? 14 days from 29th May will be 12th June,—& I gave the Factor leave of absence till the 20th!—It is dreadful how every body expects to have holidays!—‘six days shalt thou labour’ you know, Sundays are the only exceptions!!!103

When Lady Londonderry's agent died in 1854, she received the heartfelt condolences of her friends, who sympathized with the difficulties she would have in finding a suitable replacement.104 In 1858, Lady Londonderry was again looking for a new agent. The reference given for Percy Brakenbury was sufficient to ensure that he was not taken on, for although his referee wrote that ‘these farms he has put into such a good state of cultivation, that last year I had no difficulty in finding Tenants… and they were let at a great increase of rent’, he also said that Brakenbury had ‘no control over the Tenants who had known him as a boy, and paid no attention to what he said to them’, and that he was personally ‘a very tiresome person to transact business with, as he will talk by the hour’.105

The duchess of Somerset's letter to her husband in 1863 about Mr Witham who became bailiff of the Bulstrode estate in that year sums up the requirements for the job of agent, and also shows the involvement of a woman in such a significant appointment. ‘I have now seen the man,’ she (p.51) wrote; ‘I like his appearance and manner very much—a tidy dapper unaffected well educated gentlemanlike little man, in conversation.—He seems very intelligent and very straightforward.’ That the duchess was also concerned in the terms of his employment, and that she was accustomed to having her opinion canvassed is clear from the postscript, in which she said: ‘I think if you let him have the cottage near the reservoir with the garden as you intended for the other man you need not give him [£]100 per annum but much less.’106 In this last, the duchess's advice clearly prevailed, for a document outlining the duties of the bailiff (including the requirement that ‘The whole of the Bailiffs time is to be devoted to the Duke's business’,) concluded with the terms of the appointment: ‘The Salary of the Bailiff will be 80£ per ann. with a cottage and garden rent free.’107 However, in her other assessments, especially that of Witham's character, the duchess's confidence proved to be misplaced, as an episode in 1866 made clear. The incident, trivial in itself, is worth relating in detail for the light it sheds on the role the duchess took in the daily business of overseeing the family estates and farms.

Witham bought a number of farm implements at a farm sale, and informed the duchess of the purchases after the event, offering to sell them to the Bulstrode estate, which he claimed had need of them. The duchess wrote back very formally, declining the purchases, and adding that ‘Mr Witham should not have placed them in her barn without permission. The duchess does not understand concerning the chaff box & cart. The cart the bull has drawn have [sic] been some time here also the chaff box.’108 The duchess copied the correspondence to her husband, adding her analysis of the occurrence:

There is some shuffling lie about the whole—for he enclosed the Moat Farm sale papers also—dated & printed January 26th 1866. The Coachman found in the stables the only chaff box he uses … and that was for the cart horses when they were up and he has used it more than two years—he knows of no other. Osborne tells me that the only cart he knows of for the bull is one Witham asked him to buy when he came as bailiff and for which I believe you have paid him.—The bull has worked in [it] all last year!! I expect myself that the tenant at Moat farm is going to throw it up—& I begin to believe W. has been in partnership all the time.—He has also bought of Moat Farm Grinsdale tells me scotch firs and planted them in my marigold sq. & in the most foolish way close to wall.109

(p.52) Georgiana Somerset clearly had a very firm grasp of what was going on on her estates, and exercised direct personal authority in matters concerning the farms. Indeed, it is significant that she refers to ‘her barn’ and not ‘the duke's barn’ when dealing with her employees. The letter to her husband is not a request for permission to act, nor does it ask what action is to be taken; rather, it is a letter of information, and as such implies an equality of authority and confidence in the discretion of both partners to act. It is likely that the duchess took on much of the management of the estates whilst her husband was engaged in parliamentary business—he regularly held political office between 1835 and 1866. The co-operative nature of the Somersets' managerial strategy is reflected throughout their correspondence. A cottage was in need of repair; the duke suggested that the work be done by men already engaged in plastering the house, ‘if you can arrange with Philcox that it should be a separate account (as you are to pay for it). I can then pay you, but this will keep it separate from the building-accounts.’110

Witham remained in the Somersets' employment until 1879—perhaps an indication of the shortage of suitable candidates. His successor, J. C. King, was informed by the duchess on taking up the appointment that ‘we have not been content with the conduct of your predecessor, so that he will not be so useful in recommending workmen to you or giving information of all things’.111 The Somersets had been unlucky in their choice of staff, for the duchess revealed in the same letter that the man who had been in charge of the park and cattle had been ‘sent away for gross dishonesty, and of course he made those under him dishonest also’. With King's appointment, the administrative structure of the estate was reorganized, King acting as bailiff, but also having direct charge of the park and cattle, with a new under-bailiff as his assistant. In the same letter, the duchess also gave brief character résumés of the other important staff, showing her personal knowledge of her employees:

There is also Wilmot the Cowman we have had a long time, and I should be sorry to have to turn him away for anything but he is rather shuffling about his work…. The under-gardener at the Mansion Lodge, the little garden attached & the Shrubbery are under the management of the Head Gardener who lives at the Slough Lodge. The Carters and Carthorses are down near what will be your cottage. I believe them to be respectable men.

The duchess also kept a sharp eye out for any infringement of the rules affecting the labourers and tenants, although in 1879 she commented that since she had been ill, and since there had been no bailiff for a period, she had (p.53) been less able to control what had gone on. For example, she sent word to one, Godbeer, who had charge of the sheep, that ‘I thought I saw a pig-sty being put up at the end of your Garden. I therefore warn you in time… that the men in charge of the animals, and occupying the Lodges, are not allowed to keep pigs or poultry of any kind. That is the reason the Duke gives such high wages.’ The reason for the ban was not a dislike for pigs, but to avert the temptation for petty theft among the men who had access to the estate oats and other animal supplies, should they have their own livestock to care for as well.112 The duchess had a great interest in her own pigs, and the duke suggested that when next she went to their Maiden Bradley estate, ‘you might with profit buy another pig, there is plenty of food for a second. I am giving cabbages to the cows; because they will not keep.’113

Georgiana Somerset was not alone in her interest in livestock. Augusta, countess of Dartmouth, raised poultry, taking pride in her cross-bred bantams;114 and Anne Athole kept cows, recording their condition in her diary alongside her appointment as mistress of the robes.115 The cattle were an interest shared with her husband, whose prize herd was a great consolation to him after illness drove him from public life. The year 1862 was a busy one for the Blair herd, the duchess commenting in April that ‘you have really been very unlucky with the Cows this year’; by May, she had told the queen about his bovine difficulties, ‘but I did not mention that you lived both day & night in the Byre, lest you should appear quite cracked!’116 The difficulties were clearly overcome, as she wrote to her mother in July 1862 that her husband is now at Dunkeld again, having refused £400 for his prize Cow in London. He did not even sell one of the others! Well a day!!117 The duke's eccentric passion was recorded by Lord Malmesbury, who noted in his diary that Athole

has a beautiful cow exhibited at the Battersea Agricultural Show. The dairymaid who has the care of the cow appears in a sort of costume, very becoming, and is of course much admired by gentlemen. The Duke attended upon her and the cow, bringing hay and water for the latter. One day he and the dairymaid sat together on a bundle of straw, eating sandwiches, and she and the cow were the admiration of society.118

(p.54) Fortunately, Anne Athole managed to retain her sense of humour about the place of the cows in her husband's affections, writing to him on this occasion, ‘I congratulate you on the safe return of your Cows—The Queen has heard by telegraph this morning of the safe arrival of Prince & Princess Louis at Antwerp.’119

From very early in her marriage, the duchess of Athole had played an active part in running the estates, transacting business and keeping her husband informed of developments. Thus in 1844 it was Anne who arranged for the letting of the shooting on much of the estate, as her husband was then in London. Among other offers, the agent Mr Loudie had received one from ‘some charming young man, a cousin of the Hopes, but I told him I thought you would not let it. If I am mistaken pray let him know.’120 The duke (then Lord Glenlyon) approved of his wife's actions in 1842, saying ‘you acted quite right in desiring the Laundry field to be ploughed. I had always forgot to order it to be done.’121 Her husband showed no reluctance in admitting his own inadequacies and his wife's business sense, commenting that ‘You have acted with your usual discretion & good sense when left alone, & I approve of all you have done; I really think I must give up the management of my affairs to you I think you would act so much better than I can myself.’122 In the same way as the duchess kept watch over the general household expenditure, so she also argued for prudence in estate matters, querying the £400 for a new pair of gates, especially at a time when there was so much hardship among the peasantry. However, she was prepared to relieve her conscience ‘by remembering they are not our own people [starving], if I was quite sure the Gates were exactly the things we want’.123 The want of capital which plagued the Atholes' estates in the nineteenth century was forcefully brought home to the duchess in 1853. ‘[W]e went on to the farm,’ she declared, where every thing would be perfect if I could become possessed of somebody's bank stock—I should not care who's—I could spend it so judiciously!124

As dowager duchess, Anne Athole moved from Blair Castle to Dunkeld House, some twelve miles away. There she remained in command of her estates, although her son, the seventh duke, to whom her real estate would revert on her death, carried out many of the administrative duties. Thus she (p.55) heard from him in 1881 that he had been arranging new leases for three of her farms; they were to be for fifteen years, or terminable with her life, in order to avoid conflict with the authorities as to the value of the unexpired portion ‘should you not live out the fifteen years which I need hardly say I heartily trust you may’.125 (She did.) The duchess's interest in the details of her estate did not wane. She required details of damage done to the woods at Dunkeld by a hurricane in 1880,126 and in 1887 she reported to Miss Murray MacGregor that

I heard from Gillespie 2 days ago in a more cheerful tone, than when we saw him last—Wool is up 1/6d a stone since last year; & mine is sold to Conacher at Pitlochrie at 15/-. The Young Horse is sold for £50 to North British Railway—rather less than he expected—but too late in the Season—why did he not sell it sooner I wonder—Perhaps he couldn't—Turnips good crop generally,—& country not so scorched as in July.127

As a widow, Lady Palmerston had very decided views on the kinds of property she wished to own, and issued instructions to her agent accordingly. She disliked ‘House property’ because of the expenses entailed in repairs. ‘I much prefer buying land,’ she said, concluding that in the instance of some specific houses, ‘as they are so close to the House it may be well to have them, but don't buy any thing more.’128 The dowager Lady Morley also maintained an active interest in the management of her affairs: in October 1880, she noted in her diary that ‘Morley so busy going over farms etc with Hornerman & with me in the afternoon’; as the new year opened, she commented gloomily that her prospects were not ‘very bright’ with regard to ‘money matters as at present no sound of much rents’.129 (Too ready a concurrence with aristocratic cries of poverty should be tempered by the valuation of Harriet Morley's freehold estates on her death in 1897 for estate duty: they were worth more than £55,000.130)

Lady Londonderry is undoubtedly the best example of a widow who took the management of her property into her own hands on the death of her husband. Her interests were, however, principally in industry (see below), and (p.56) she placed the management of her Irish estates in the hands of her stepson, the fourth marquess, and his agents.131 This sort of division of labour was far from uncommon: in addition to providing an independent residence, sending the heir to take charge of one of the subsidiary estates had the dual benefit of giving him and his wife experience of their future role while bringing another of the estates under the direct supervision of the landowner.132 Earl Fitzwilliam sent his heir Lord Milton to live on his Irish estate, Coollattin, in County Wicklow, during the 1840s and 1850s; the regime which was implemented, on an English model, was widely regarded as one of the best in Ireland, and the Fitzwilliam estates were spared the worst excesses of the Land War.133

Women were central to the organization of the social life of the estate, which revolved around the dual functions of field sports and maintaining the social ties of the community. While hunting and shooting were predominantly male preserves, some women, such as Lady Seymour (later duchess of Somerset), also indulged in the sport.134 Lady Wharncliffe's otherwise laconic diary for the autumn of 1864 becomes its most animated on the subject of the quality of the shooting at the various hunting-lodges she visited, although it is not clear whether she was taking part or merely recording the experiences of others: for instance on 17 November, she pronounced Cheveley ‘a nice little place’, where the shooting was ‘good’, whilst that at Brome Hall on the 22nd was ‘wonderful’.135 The passion for shooting, and for Scotland in particular, was not universally shared. Despite Queen Victoria's unbounded enthusiasm for Scotland, Sarah Lyttelton felt herself able to listen to the queen's raptures on Scottish subjects with equanimity only by the reflection that she would never have to experience the delights herself.136 Palmerston's disgust with the place was probably shared by his wife, (p.57) to whom he wrote the following account of the deer forests created by the policy of Highland Clearance:

It takes from ten to fifteen years to people it with these Quadrupeds, after it has been dispeopled of all Bipeds, and then one finds oneself very like Robinson Crusoe on his Desert Island… For my Part I would not accept Ten Square Miles of such Country on the condition of being obliged to pass Ten days of each year upon them.137

He continued to express his amazement at the popularity of such country, with sympathy for the women who were obliged to spend time there without the entertainment of killing deer: ‘How poor Lady Abercorn contrives to amuse herself I know not, except that I conclude they generally have their House & wigwams full.’ The duchess of Athole also contrived to have a full wigwam for the hunting season in 1851, reporting to the queen, with whom she compared notes on the shooting successes of their respective husbands, that ‘Next week we shall have a hunt on the low grounds for the smaller game, when we expect about 20 guests.’138

The celebration of major family events by the whole of an estate, such as the coming of age of the heir, or his marriage, and their implications for the maintenance of community ties have been plentifully charted by Thompson and others.139 Less consideration has been given to the much more regular festivals which performed the same functions of drawing an estate together, such as rent-days, the marking of the birthday of the landowner or his wife, and the annual celebrations at Christmas and New Year. For instance, in 1848, Palmerston wrote to thank his wife for ‘your rural Festival to the Labourers on my Birth Day’,140 while the duke of Athole regularly commemorated his wife's birthday with treats for the servants, tenants, and schoolchildren on the estate: in 1860, for example, he booked a train to take 300 people to the seaside.141 In a similar vein, demonstrations of approval from tenants and servants, whether or not they were spontaneous expressions of goodwill, were de rigeur on the reappearance of an aristocratic family on an estate. After an absence abroad (which in complex ways was intended to validate her second marriage), Frances Waldegrave and her husband, the seventh earl Waldegrave, returned to their Somerset estate, (p.58) Harptree Court, to find ‘all the tenants turned out, triumphal arches appeared overnight, Waldegrave's yeomanry were there in force’.142 During her fourth marriage, a correspondent wrote to Lady Waldegrave of his regret that ‘the bells were not ringing when you arrived [in Chewton] yesterday’, an omission occasioned by the ringers watching the wrong road for their approach.143 Even in Ireland, visits by aristocratic families were used as the occasion for communal festivities, as the duchess of St Albans on a visit to Kilree in County Clare found: ‘This is the wildest little Sea place imaginable, & primitive to a degree. The inhabitants improvised a little welcome for us the other night, in the shape of tar barrels & Band &c.’144 Also in Ireland, some years earlier, Lady Dover had visited her husband's Irish estate at Gowran with less ceremony. They ‘were allowed to arrive very quietly, but we had an illumination, which we walked down the town to look at… yesterday they had the “long dance” in which the children joined… the dancers were very respectable, but the spectators a most grotesque assemblage’.145

If the estates served to fuse together rural society, they did so in a highly hierarchical and class-conscious fashion. Neighbours, tenants (often divided by the size of their holdings), labourers, and servants were all feted at different times and in different ways by the aristocratic household. Even the paying of rent was done by rank: at Apethorpe, Lady Westmorland returned home to find a gathering of farmers ‘dining in the arcade, to-day being the first of three rent-days when the tenants come to pay their first half-year rent. They begin with the large farmers, tomorrow the little ones will come, and the day after the tenants of the cottages.’146 Only on the predominantly masculine hunting field did landowners, neighbours, and tenants join together in any kind of social activity. Events presided over by women, on the other hand, tended to be highly stratified by rank. In 1856, Frances Waldegrave revived the tenants' ball at the Green Man in Navestock, Essex,147 while Lady Morley noted that 1880 ended with ‘The Labourers dinner, wh. they enjoyed very much. Morley arrived unexpectedly at 9 & went & wished them a happy new year wh. pleased them much.’ The class-segregated celebrations continued into 1881, when in early January the tenants went to (p.59) Saltram for their dance, which lasted until four o'clock the following morning. Servants would generally be treated to a separate ball.148 Lady Westmorland's commentary on a tenants' ball demonstrates the social distance which remained between landowner and tenant farmer:

We ended the year here by the ball for the farmers and their families, which every year more nearly approaches a society ball; for not only do the wives and daughters of the good people wear hoops, big sleeves, and are fashionably coiffée, but they dance the polka, schottische, and quadrilles, instead of country dances and reels. It makes one die of laughter to see them, for you know the English nature is not graceful in dancing.149

Invitations to events in country houses to neighbours (rather than to tenants and employees) were much coveted, and provided one of the great links between ‘county society’, the resident gentry, and the aristocracy who spent only part of each year on the estates. In the early part of the century there was much criticism of the aristocracy for neglecting their duties to their county neighbours, complaints which were reiterated towards the end of the century, when enhanced mobility and decreasing aristocratic dependence on the estates for their income and position again weakened the ties in rural society.150 But the Victorian heyday witnessed many such events, and attempts on the part of the aristocracy to reinforce their domination of the local societies in which their principal seats were located. For example, on 5 January 1852, the Morning Post published an account of a ball given at Hatfield House by the Salisburys to some 300 guests ‘of the nobility and gentry of the county’.151 Not that such events were without their difficulties. Disputes with neighbours, such as that between the duke of Athole and a Perthshire neighbour, Mr McInroy, could make holding such an event exceedingly awkward, as Louisa Athole wrote to her mother-in-law in 1888: ‘We always ask the few neighbours to our balls… & the other older people think so much of the compliment of being asked, … [but] McInroy cannot be left out if the others are asked.’152

(p.60) To write aristocratic women out of an account of the functioning of rural society, then, would be a mistake; they were often vital partners in the management of these economic enterprises, with considerable command of the daily round of labour. Disraeli's query to Lady Londonderry, about how the ‘great personages’ managed their vast empires, can thus be answered in part by the consideration of the dual nature of the management structure of many estates. While the husband generally dealt with most of the business, some, like the Somersets, saw their enterprises as a partnership; some aristocratic women like Harriet Sutherland saw a responsibility for estate affairs as part of their social and wifely duties; other women, such as Ladies Palmerston and Londonderry were accustomed to considerable autonomy in business as in other spheres of their lives, and acted accordingly when their legal status as widows formally enabled such freedom of action.


Whereas the management of estates was generally viewed as an occupation suitable for a gentleman rather than as ‘work’, it was more difficult to put the same interpretation on industrial and commercial enterprises.153 The number of aristocratic men who engaged directly in business in this period was small, although many had indirect industrial interests, particularly in mineral exploitation and transport networks.154 To be too closely involved in manufacturing and commerce was to endanger caste and class, as the very definition of the aristocracy involved separation from the toiling and business classes. The discovery of an admittedly small number of aristocratic women actively engaged in the industrial and commercial business of their properties prompts speculation that the aristocratic woman could take advantage of her gender to overturn the dictates of her class, and of her class to transcend the limitations imposed by her gender.155

Lady Charlotte Guest, mindful of the merits of her industrialist husband, recognized that ‘in this aristocratic nation the word Trade conveys a Taint. I am determined to overcome the prejudice, I will force them, whether or no to disguise, if they do not forget its existence in my case.’156 The duke of (p.61) Rutland's comment to another woman who directly managed a vast business concern, Frances Anne Londonderry, was a typical aristocratic response: ‘I was surprised at your Preference of the Commercial over the Agricultural work which you have to go through.’ Land management was the province of the gentleman, commerce of the bourgeois. The implied criticism was tempered by a show of humility, however, as the duke went on to say: ‘The former is so much intricate [sic] and complicated that I am sure I for one should give it up in Despair.’157

Much as some members of the aristocracy might try to distance themselves from the processes of industrialization which were transforming British society during this period, it was from that industry that the aristocracy derived an increasing part of its income.158 Either by directly exploiting the resources available to them by virtue of the ownership of land, or by reaping the rewards of the labour and investment of others through rentals, the aristocracy, both male and female, was indubitably implicated in the ‘industrial revolution’, and profited from it in many ways. There were occasional prices to be paid by way of inconvenience, such as the blackening of the landscape by soot around the Fitzwilliams' house at Wentworth, but these were slight in comparison with the enormous rewards.159 The railways, greeted initially with suspicion by many aristocrats who did not want their land carved up by the lines or their peace disturbed by the noise, were to prove one of the greatest boons of the century. (Lord Wharncliffe was surprised to find that, when he went out in 1843 to inspect the new line that ran through his estate, ‘so far from being an eyesore, … it has the effect upon you of increasing the idea of the Vastness of the wood’.160) Other aristocrats enthusiastically took on directorships of the new companies. One rent-day in Devonshire in the 1850s the earl of Portsmouth informed his wife that ‘I have had a glorious receipt here taking it altogether £4500 & odd & about (p.62) £100 or so more to be paid in. The effect of the Railway is beginning to tell.’161 Portsmouth was less keen, however, on the benefits of the railway intruding on his Hampshire property, and opposed the building of a new line, occasioning considerable annoyance to his brother-in-law, Lord Carnarvon, for whom the line, passing through his property, was of ‘great importance’. Eveline Portsmouth was called on to intercede between her brother and husband.162 Railways were a predominantly masculine business, but even here the redoubtable Frances Anne Londonderry was active, and her energy in such matters exhausted her friends: ‘I cannot understand where & how you find the means to carry out such mighty works as you have in Hand,’ the duke of Rutland wrote. ‘You make nothing of adding 2 Miles more to a Railway already constructed of 3 Miles—I could very much increase my Revenue in Coal & Iron in Derbyshire if I could have a Railway of 5 Miles—But I could as soon [illeg.] to the Sky as execute it with my own hands!’163 Frances Anne Londonderry's example suggests that it was not his class that prevented Rutland from the exertion.

The average aristocrat had little more to do with his or her industrial concerns than the receipt of the rents. Lady Waldegrave's mining interests, acquired from her first two husbands, were principally managed by her third husband, George Granville Vernon Harcourt, and her lawyer; it is significant that after their deaths in 1861 and 1862, the receipts of the mining enterprise dropped considerably.164 The agent at the Radstock collieries, John Parfitt, appears to have communicated with his employer infrequently; the letters which remain are generally to inform the countess of the amount of her income from the mines and to comment on the state of the industry in such terms as make clear the infrequency of her involvement, as, for example:

Our Trade I am sorry to say is in a most depressed state, the demand for coal being very little indeed…. We have had two or three narrow escapes from accident on account of the unsafe state of the Sudlow pit: I have therefore commenced putting the shaft in proper order, but do not intend making any alteration in the Machinery until times improve.165

(p.63) And this in a letter announcing that Lady Waldegrave's share of the profits for that quarter would be £2,000.

Although her personal involvement in the mining concerns of her estates was limited, Frances Waldegrave was very much associated with the product. The bishop of Carlisle ‘was struck by your name which your agents have made very public in all this neighbourhood [Salisbury, Wiltshire] by means of large placards advertizing the Radstock Coal’, and took the opportunity to ask for a gift of coal for his schools.166 Harriet Sutherland's papers also reveal very little interest in the management of the great industrial concerns of her family, contrasting with the extent of her involvement with the agricultural estates; a letter from George Loch outlining the costs of improving the harbours at Brora and Little Ferry in 1856 provides an exception.167

There were exceptions to this rule of aristocratic female indifference to trade and industry. Sarah, countess of Jersey, inherited the London banking house of Child & Co. from her maternal grandfather, and from 1806 until her death, ‘Lady Jersey was both the owner and the very active senior partner of the bank.’168 Frances Anne, marchioness of Londonderry, and Lady Charlotte Guest provide the most striking, and best-documented, examples of aristocratic women in business. The situations of these two women were similar in so far as they both took control of huge heavy industrial interests as widows in the 1850s, taking day-to-day responsibility for the management of their industries, and gaining public recognition, if not approbation, for their activities. There the similarities cease; Lady Londonderry had been a great heiress in her own right, and the mining properties she managed had been hers originally, and returned to her for her lifetime after the death of her husband in 1854. She had spent some time after Waterloo as wife of the ambassador in Vienna (where she had included the Russian tsar among her conquests), and had for many years been one of the leaders of fashionable Tory society: Disraeli recalled her after her death as ‘a grande dame who was kind to me when a youth, though she was a tyrant in her way’.169 Lady Charlotte, on the other hand, was the daughter of the impoverished ninth earl of Lindsay, whose widow's second marriage to a clergyman was regarded as a mésalliance. Marriage to the Dowlais ironmaster, Josiah John Guest, (p.64) provided her with an escape from an unhappy family life, while giving the socially-aspiring industrialist and member of parliament an entréeinto fashionable and political society. During his protracted illness in the 1840s, an increasing amount of the business of Dowlais fell on Lady Charlotte's shoulders, and after his death in 1853, she was appointed trustee of the ironworks for as long as she remained a widow. The freehold estates also came under her sole jurisdiction during her lifetime. Thus Lady Londonderry approached her industrial management from a totally secure social position, with an immovable place in the aristocracy, while Lady Charlotte, apparently downwardly mobile, struggled against becoming déclassée: her success may be measured by the barony bestowed on her son, the first Lord Wimborne, and the marriage of that same son to Lady Cornelia Spencer Churchill, daughter of the duke of Marlborough, and Frances Anne Londonderry's granddaughter.170

Lady Londonderry had early taken an interest in the collieries which were the source of much of her inheritance;171 during her marriage, the additions and improvements to the Vane-Tempest properties were generally carried out in the name of the marquess, such as the purchase of the Seaham estate in 1821 and the building of Seaham Harbour to facilitate the export of coal. None the less, these actions were seen as being on Frances Anne's behalf. Thus, in 1821, Castlereagh wrote to his brother, the future Londonderry (then known as Lord Stewart), on the Seaham purchase, that ‘It certainly will be a service rendered to Lady Stewart's interest to have so largely added to her landed estate, which I am sure you will have a particular pride in having accomplished after all her devotion to you.’172

So in industry, as in other areas of economic life, it is useful to resort to the notion of incorporation to discuss the relationship of the married woman to the family property, to see the enterprise in terms of the benefits to both members of the partnership, and to see the roles within the enterprise as distinct, with different emphases. In the Londonderry case, there was a surprising reversal of the usual hierarchies: Frances Anne was the transmitter of the property, her husband her active agent. This, if not a total reversal of the expected gender roles, was a reversal of the social hierarchy, with the marquess appearing in a symbolically inferior position to his wife. His position was revealed in the edict he issued to the striking Durham and Northumberland pitmen in 1844, after the expiry of an ultimatum:

(p.65) I found you dogged, obstinate and determined:- indifferent to my really paternal advice and kind feelings to the old families of the VANE and TEMPEST Pitmen who had worked for successive ages in the Mines. I was bound to act up to my word,—bound by duty to my property, my family and station. I superintended then many ejections, it had no avail.173

Besides being an example of Londonderry's managerial style, this document charts the ambiguities in the marquess's position: he could not call on long years of service to his own family, but only to that of his wife. His paternalism, arguably, had less symbolic effect in this instance than the maternalism of his wife, which had the longer pedigree. Although Londonderry stated his duty to be to ‘my property’, he clearly found it necessary to refer obliquely to the authority of his wife in the qualifying ‘my family’. Similarly, when he threatened the local tradesmen who were giving credit to the striking miners, it was with the loss of his own and his wife's custom.

While Londonderry was the more active figure in the industrial concerns, his wife exerted herself through the political connections she had cultivated as a hostess on behalf of the coal interest. It was she who had a correspondence with Disraeli (of whose protectionist views Londonderry was a zealous supporter) in 1850 over the Mines Bill; Londonderry had opposed the Act of 1842 restricting the labour of women and children underground, and the new bill, to improve inspection, was supported by the miners and opposed by the mine-owners. Disraeli's assistance was sought by the Londonderrys, and he wrote to Frances Anne that

I have prevented the 2nd Reading of the Mines bill on two occasions, but fear I shall not succeed in obtaining further delay to night. Delay is our only chance, as there is no hope of opposition to it, the philanthropists on our own side & the political economists on the other, being, strange to say, united in favor of it.174

There can be little reason for thinking that Lady Londonderry did not share her husband's authoritarian views on industrial management; she certainly continued his rhetoric. After his death, she wrote to their tenants at Garron Tower in Ireland that he had been devoted to the ‘improvement of the districts he became connected with’. The works were a memorial to his ‘desire to do his duty towards those amongst whom he lived’, which were ‘foremost in the impulses of his generous nature’.175 The Londonderrys' (p.66) approach to industrial relations contrasts strongly with that of Lady Charlotte Guest, although both were firmly in the paternalist tradition of treating the working classes like recalcitrant children. Unlike the Londonderrys, Lady Charlotte did not like ‘to treat the people de haut en bas. They are generally very reasonable—and a few firm, kind words often puts matters on the proper footing and in the right light with them.’176 The Guest approach to the marital business partnership was in some respects more complex, for although the property hierarchy was maintained, Lady Charlotte took social precedence of her husband. Further, during 1844, Guest was stricken with a debilitating disease which limited his capacity for involvement in the daily business of the ironworks, business which increasingly was overseen by Lady Charlotte. Placed in a socially equivocal position, Lady Charlotte was one of the few aristocratic women who explicitly articulated thoughts about gender and class, and the indeterminacies of her position as an aristocratic woman involved in industry. It is worth quoting her at length:

How deeply I have felt this inferiority of sex and how humiliated I am when it is recalled to my mind in allusion to myself! … since I married I have taken up such pursuits as in this country of business and ironmaking would render me conversant with what occupied the male part of the population. Sometimes I think I have succeeded pretty well—but every now and then I am painfully reminded that toil as I may, I can never succeed beyond a certain point and by a very large portion of the community my acquirements and judgements must always be looked upon as those of a mere woman.177

It is interesting that, in this moment of reflection at least, Lady Charlotte was more concerned at being thought incompetent ‘beyond a certain point’ in business because she was a ‘mere woman’ than she was in the propriety of being engaged in such business at all.

In the industrial world, then, as nowhere else, the aristocratic woman was most subject to the prescriptions of woman's sphere, because industry was essentially a middle-class preserve, and the aristocratic woman had no traditional role to play in it. Lady Londonderry in many respects treated her industries as a simple extension of her landed estate; the great feast for between three and four thousand pitmen on Chilton Moor in March 1856 can be seen as a large-scale version of the tenants' ball or the labourers' dinner provided for the agricultural dependants.178 Lady Charlotte was obliged to work within the framework of middle-class expectations, although she remarked that walking through the ironworks, ‘I always feel here in my proper sphere’.179

(p.67) As widows, both women took a very active role in the management of the industries under their care. Both were appointed to sole authority over vast concerns, in spite of the prevailing practices of property transmission. In neither case was the control granted to be terminated by the coming of age or marriage of a son, but rather was granted, in Lady Londonderry's case, for her lifetime, and in Lady Charlotte's, for so long as she remained a widow. Lady Charlotte had undergone a long apprenticeship in the works, acting as her husband's secretary from 1836. The tasks of letter writing, copying, accounting and arranging went on for many years, interrupted only by her ten confinements in thirteen years.180 The extent of her husband's dependence on her activities was indicated by the ‘immense pile of letters’ which Guest brought for his wife to deal with, which had accumulated during the final stages of one pregnancy. Similarly, when Lady Charlotte gave up doing their private accounts, Guest found the activity so time-consuming and uncongenial that she was obliged to take it on again.181 Such was the extent of Lady Charlotte's involvement that she could write in 1838 that ‘Merthyr [Guest] has weaned me from all my own pursuits and taught me to be fond of his business and now… I have got into such habits that business is almost the only thing that interests me.’182 The following year she reinforced her sense of the gendered nature of the change in her priorities, observing that she was ‘so schooled … into habits of business’ that she would rather ‘calculate the advantage of half per cent commission on a cargo of iron than… go to the finest Ball in the world’.183 In 1839, the Dowlais premises in the City of London included an office for Lady Charlotte. This training held her in good stead during the 1840s, when Guest's illness caused his wife to take on more and more of the daily business of the ironworks, and after his death in 1852, when she became the active head of the works.

The labour difficulties experienced in the summer of 1853 in South Wales are worth some examination, for the light they shed on the peculiar problems experienced by a woman in industry.184 Faced with inflationary wage demands from the miners and a strike at the Penydarren pit, the owners of four South Wales collieries met at Lady Charlotte's London house to plan concerted action. One of the owners suggested stopping work at all their sites until the Penydarren men returned to work at no increase of wages, a proposal which outraged Lady Charlotte, who thought it ‘monstrous to tell (p.68) our steady good men that unless … they compelled their refractory neighbours to go to work we would revenge it upon them and throw them out of bread’. However, opposed by all the iron- and coal-masters, including her own foreman, John Evans, and feeling that ‘my objections might arise from a woman's weakness’, Lady Charlotte accepted the principle, although without signing the agreement. Overnight, she changed her mind, for ‘though I might plead the extenuating circumstances of being a woman and in argument alone against the opinion of five experienced men of business who hurried matters unduly to an assumed conclusion, yet I cannot but own that I had the power to say no’. The strike was ended by agreement to higher wages, and some of the other pits followed suit. In July the Dowlais men also demanded increased wages, but in a show of determination aimed in part at her workers, but also at the other owners, Lady Charlotte resisted, saying ‘all the more I have declined all aggressive meanness towards them, the more I shall feel not only justified, but bound, to resist any movement of this kind [i.e. a strike] on their part. I will be their master [my italics].’ This determination was met with resistance, and 1,500 colliers went out on strike, and received their month's notice; Lady Charlotte herself supervised the stopping of thirteen blast furnaces. By September, the men returned to work, on terms dictated by their employer: that is, with no new rise in pay. Thus we see Lady Charlotte, afraid of having been unduly influenced by feminine considerations in her dealings with the industrialists, resolved on playing an unequivocally masculine role with regard to her workers—‘I will be their master’—which role she pushed to its limits, breaking the strike of the exclusively and aggressively masculine mining community.

For Lady Londonderry, taking over the Durham collieries in 1854, the whole activity was novel. She wrote to Disraeli that she fancied ‘I am turned into a clerk’, and pointed to the vast range of business with which she had now, and rapidly, to become acquainted: ‘I silently suck everybody's brain and go home and digest it all. I think I could manage any one subject but I have so many to go for Estates to Docks, from draining to Railways, quarries to timber and so on till I get hopelessly bewildered.’185 She could, of course, have entrusted the whole business to her agents, or to one of her sons, but chose not to. The measure of her success in coming to terms with her new role may be found in the description left by Disraeli of the marchioness in 1861:

She prefers living in a hall on the shores of the German Ocean [North Sea], surrounded by her collieries and her blast furnaces and her railroads and the unceasing (p.69) telegraphs, with a port hewn out of the solid rock, screw steamers and four thousand pitmen under her control…. she has a regular office, a fine stone building with her name and arms in front, and her flag flying above; and here she transacts, with innumerable agents, immense business—and I remember her five-and-twenty years ago a mere fine lady; nay, the finest in London! But one must find excitement if one has brains.186

Frances Anne was by no means a figure-head; her biography is full of incidents demonstrating her personal grasp of the affairs of her business, her interest in all that concerned her properties. The idea of setting up blast furnaces at Seaham was her own, and she initiated the connection of the Seaham and Sunderland Railway with the London and North-Western Railway.187

The occasion on which Frances Anne's activities were drawn to general attention, the feast for the pitmen on Chilton Moor in 1856, has already been noted. Aside from the paternalist implications of the occasion, it was significant for the speech which Lady Londonderry made. At a time when women, even aristocratic ones, seldom made speeches, the event aroused considerable public interest. The duke of Rutland commented that ‘A new Era seems coming on & Women's Empire is I think wholly to come back in all its glory’,188 Disraeli found ‘your address very telling, and, both in spirit and expression, without a fault’.189 Lady Charlotte Guest, who had by this time remarried and given up the Dowlais business to her son, read reports of the occasion, and was reminded of ‘my old days of power’. She found the speech ‘a most excellent and sensible one—No man could have done better… It is a move in the right direction and as coming from a woman is deserving of greater consideration. If our aristocracy will avail themselves of such occasions to mingle with and advise the people, they will do much good for both classes.’190 The speech, which had expressed Lady Londonderry's regret at not being allowed to go down the mines herself, was essentially a homily against striking (she pointed to strikers from other pits turned from their homes, and the pitmen must have been reminded of the evictions from the Londonderry estates in 1844), advocating increased caution in the pits, and an exhortation to virtue, concluding with the wish that ‘we may each… do (p.70) our duty in that state of life to which it has pleased God to call us’.191 Although Lady Londonderry's state in life was in many ways a peculiar one, the calm acceptance of her active commercial and industrial life—it was even reported in The Times without criticism or comment192—shows that, although it was unusual, industry and business were not so far removed from aristocratic women's usual activities as to prohibit their active involvement.

Households and estates, and their attendant business, occupied most aristocratic women in great measure. Providing the physical and territorial basis of aristocratic authority, maintaining ties of dependency and patronage, and creating the economic security which underpinned the edifice of aristocratic culture, the great houses and estates were much more than homes, and the women who ran them much more than the glorified housekeepers of the ‘sacred temples’. Their contributions to the management of estates were rarely strategic, but in the less easily quantifiable realm of daily observation and supervision. A similar pattern may be discerned in the involvement of aristocratic women in the institutional and spiritual concerns of those who surrounded them, in the schools and churches of their parishes.


(1) Catherine Hall, ‘The Early Formation of Victorian Domestic Ideology’, in her White, Male and Middle Class, 75–93; Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes; Patricia Branca, Silent Sisterhood: Middle-Class Women in the Victorian Home (Croom Helm, 1975); Barbara Welter, ‘The Cult of True Womanhood’, American Quarterly, 18 (1966), 151–74; Kathryn Kish Sklar, Catherine Beecher: A Study in American Domesticity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973).

(2) John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies (Everyman edn., 1907; first published 1864), 59–60.

(3) Christopher Lasch, Haven in a Heartless World: The Family Besieged (New York: Basic Books, 1977).

(4) Stone, Family, Sex and Marriage; Randolph Trumbach, The Rise of the Egalitarian Family: Aristocratic Kinship and Domestic Relations (New York: Academic Press, 1978); Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, ch. 7; Mark Girouard, Life in the English Country House: A Social and Architectural History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980; 1st pub. 1978).

(5) J. S. Lewis, In the Family Way, esp. ch. 1.

(6) Marjorie Villiers, The Grand Whiggery (John Murray, 1939); Mandler, Aristocratic Government, demonstrates the political consequences of such networks.

(7) Davidoff, Best Circles, 49–52. Although marriages across class lines took place, unless sweetened with great wealth, they usually ended the association of the transgressor with his or, more usually, her family. See e.g. H. V. Bayley to Sarah Jersey, n.d., Jersey MSS, Acc 510/539.

(8) J. S. Lewis, In the Family Way, 60–1. See also Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan, The Glitter and the Gold (Maidstone, Kent: George Mann, 1973; 1st pub. 1953), 55–7.

(9) Thompson, English Landed Society, 76–7.

(10) See Ward, English Noblewomen, ch. 3; Norbert Elias, The Court Society, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983; 1st pub. 1969), ch. 3; Kate Mertes, The English Noble Household, 1250–1600: Good Governance and Politic Rule (Oxford: Blackwell, 1988).

(11) Beckett, Aristocracy in England, 337.

(12) Anne Athole to Athole, n.d. [1856], Atholl MSS, Box 58.

(13) See Ward, English Noblewomen, ch. 3.

(14) In Memoriam: Harriet, Duchess of Sutherland (Newcastle, Staffs.: no publisher, 1872).

(15) See Jalland, Women, Marriage and Politics, 268–72. See also Jane Ridley and Clayre Percy (eds.), The Letters of Arthur Balfour and Lady Elcho 1885–1917 (Hamish Hamilton, 1992), 291.

(16) Anthony Trollope, Castle Richmond (Oxford: World's Classics, 1989; 1st pub. 1860), 7.

(17) James Garner to Lady Minto, 21 July [1847], Minto MSS, MS11908, fos. 63–4.

(18) Martha Willis to Lady Minto, 28 July [1847], Minto MSS, MS11908, fos. 75–6.

(19) Elizabeth Verulam to Beatrix Cadogan, 12 Feb. [1867?], Cadogan Papers, House of Lords Record Office (hereafter Cadogan MSS), CAD/79. Henrietta Stanley of Alderley told her husband that ‘Mme. de Flahault's cook might do if she has been in the country—we give 30 gns. no perquisites & I pay my own bills’: Nancy Mitford (ed.), The Ladies of Alderley (Chapman and Hall, 1938), 304.

(20) ‘Directions for the Regulation of the Duke of Sutherland's Household while at Dunrobin Castle’, 28 July 1840, Sutherland MSS (Staffs.), D593 P/20.

(21) The exclusively female character of household management has, of course, been widely overstated. See John Tosh, ‘Domesticity and Manliness in the Victorian Middle Class: The Family of Edward White Benson’, in Michael Roper and John Tosh (eds.), Manful Assertions: Masculinities in Britain since 1800 (Routledge, 1991), 44–73. See also Mertes, English Noble Household, 57–9, who demonstrates that the household in the medieval period was almost exclusively male, and suggests that it was only as the aristocratic household diminished in significance that it became feminized.

(22) This section is based on ‘Rough Draft of Memoranda for Duke of Newcastle’, [n.d.], Sutherland MS (Staffs.), D593 P/24/9/6.

(23) ‘Rough Draft of Memoranda for Duke of Newcastle’.

(24) ‘Ascot Expenses 1859’, Londonderry MS, D/Lo/F 468.

(25) Anne Athole to Athole, 15 May 1862, Atholl MSS, Box 58.

(26) Jill Franklin, ‘Troops of Servants': Labour and Planning in the Country House 1840–1914’, Victorian Studies, 19 (Dec. 1975), 211–39. Gerard, Country House Life, examines country house service in detail.

(27) Census Records, PRO HO107/739 (1841). This return does not specify occupations.

(28) PRO HO107/1481 (1851).

(29) Gerard, Country House Life, esp. ch. 7.

(30) PRO RG10/2158 (1871).

(31) PRO RG9/56 (1861). Frances Waldegrave to Chichester Fortescue, [28 Aug. 1858], Strachey Papers, Somerset Archive and Record Service (hereafter Strachey MSS), DD/SH C1189 G336.

(32) PRO RG9/712 (1861) and RG10/1238 (1871).

(33) Emily Palmerston to Palmerston, 23 [Sept. 1853], Broadlands MSS, BR30.

(34) Sarah Lyttelton to Mary Minto, [June 1841?], Minto MSS, MS11907, fos.195–7.

(35) Parliamentary Papers (1899), xcii. 25–6, ‘Money Wages of Indoor Domestic Servants’, quoted in Theresa M. McBride, The Domestic Revolution: The Modernization of Household Service in England and France, 1820–1920 (Croom Helm, 1976), 76.

(36) Susan Wharncliffe's diary, 20 and 27 Mar. 1876, Wharncliffe Muniments, Sheffield City Library (hereafter Wharncliffe Muniments), WhM 485. See also Anne Athole to Athole, 16 and 22 May 1859, Atholl MSS, Box 58.

(37) Anne Athole to Athole, 7 Nov. 1855, Atholl MSS, Box 58.

(38) Emily Cowper to Mary Minto, 24 Sept. [1838], Minto MSS, MS11907, fos. 122–3.

(39) Clanricarde to Frances Waldegrave, 15 Feb. 1862, Strachey MSS, DD/SH C1189 G248.

(40) Anne Athole to Athole, 7 Nov. 1855, Atholl MSS, Box 58.

(41) Emily Palmerston to Palmerston, [22 Jan. 1851], Broadlands MSS, BR30.

(42) Mertes, English Noble Household, 1.

(43) See Ch. 3.

(44) Anne Athole to Louisa Athole, 27 July 1887, Atholl MSS, Bundle 1657; Harriet Sutherland to Henry D. Erskine, 4 Apr. [n.y.], Bodleian Library, Oxford (hereafter Bod.), MS. Eng. lett. b. 24, fo. 216.

(45) Harriet Sutherland to Gladstone, [1 July 1867], BL Add. MS 44,329, fos. 231–2.

(46) Anne Sutherland to Mrs Blinks, [n.d.], Sutherland MSS (Staffs.), D593 P/28/12.

(47) See M. Jeanne Peterson, ‘The Victorian Governess: Status Incongruence in Family and Society’, in Martha Vicinus (ed.), Suffer and be Still: Women in the Victorian Age (Methuen, 1980; 1st pub. 1972), 3–19.

(48) Sophia de Clifford to Sarah Jersey, [6 Nov. 1835], Jersey MSS, Acc 510/480.

(49) Mrs Robert Arkwright to Sarah Jersey, [n.d.], Jersey MSS, Acc 510/537.

(50) G. Fleming to Harriet Sutherland, 20 Sept. 1854, Sutherland MSS (Staffs.), D593 P/22/1/32.

(51) T. Jackson to Harriet Sutherland, [n.d.], Sutherland MSS (Staffs.), D593 P/20.

(52) ‘Petition from the Under Gardeners, Strawberry Hill’, [n.d.], Strachey MSS, DD/SH C1189 G216.

(53) Thomas Christie to Anne Athole, 30 Jan. 1889, Atholl MSS, Bundle 1664.

(54) Anne Athole to Thomas Christie, 31 Jan. 1889, MSS, Atholl Bundle 1664.

(55) Louisa Ashburton to Richard Monckton Milnes, 29 July [1860?], Houghton Papers, Trinity College Library, Cambridge (hereafter Houghton MSS), 1/226.

(56) Harriet Sutherland to Gladstone, 9 Aug. [1867?], BL Add. MS 44,329, fos. 242–3.

(57) See Ch. 6, p. 199.

(58) Lord Westmorland to Priscilla Westmorland, 7 Jan. 1856, quoted in Lady Rose Weigall (ed.), The Correspondence of Priscilla, Countess of Westmorland (1909), 278.

(59) Athole to Anne Athole, [10 Dec. 1857], Atholl MSS, Box 58.

(60) Roberts, Paternalism in Early Victorian England, esp. 2–9.

(61) Charles Barry to Harriet Sutherland, 14 Mar. 1849, Sutherland MSS (Staffs.), D593 P/20.

(62) Correspondence of duke and duchess of Sutherland with Benjamin Wyatt, Sutherland MSS (Staffs.), D593 P/22/1/16, passim.

(63) Abingdon to Frances Waldegrave, 23 Apr. 1855, Strachey MSS, DD/SH C1189 G240.

(64) G. Nevill, Exotic Groves; Ralph Nevill (ed.), The Life and Letters of Lady Dorothy Nevill (Methuen, 1919), 56–7.

(65) See e.g. Georgiana Somerset to [unknown], [n.d., c.1860?], Bulstrode Papers, Buckinghamshire County Record Office (hereafter Bulstrode MSS), D/RA/5/22A; and Richard Bottom to Frances Waldegrave, 9 Apr. 1858, Strachey MSS, DD/SH C1189 G215.

(66) Girouard, Life in the English Country House, ch. 10. Girouard's schematic approach, marking a movement from ‘formal’ to ‘moral’ design, does not, take into account, however, the extent to which many aristocratic households continued to live in unreconstructed, formal houses.

(67) Benjamin Disraeli to Frances Anne Londonderry, 2 Sept. 1855, Londonderry MSS, D/Lo/C 530 (153).

(68) Cannadine, Decline and Fall, 7, is egregiously deliberate in his exclusion of women, but he is far from alone; see also Matthew Cragoe, An Anglican Aristocracy: The Moral Economy of the Landed Estate in Carmarthenshire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 1; Thompson, English Landed Society; David Spring, The English Landed Estate in the Nineteenth Century: Its Administration (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1963); Susanna Wade Martins, A Great Estate at Work: The Holkham Estate and its Inhabitants in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980). The coffee-table and heritage markets have covered aristocratic women more extensively, although they have not necessarily served them better. See Trevor Lummis and Jan Marsh, The Woman's Domain: Women and the English Country House (Viking, 1990); Pamela Horn, Ladies of the Manor: Wives and Daughters in Country-House Society 1830–1918 (Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1991); John Martin Robinson, The English Country Estate (Century, 1988).

(69) Ardener and Callan (eds.), Incorporated Wife, esp. Hilary Callan, Introduction, 1–24. It also suggests the persistence of the pre-industrial ‘family economy’, among the landowning class, for which see Louise A. Tilly and Joan W. Scott, Women, Work and Family (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1978).

(70) John Bateman, The Great Landowners of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th edn. rev. (Harrison, 1883), p. xvii.

(71) Thompson, English Landed Society, 6.

(72) Lee Holcombe, ‘Victorian Wives and Property: Reform of the Married Women's Property Law, 1857–1882’, in Martha Vicinus (ed.), A Widening Sphere: Changing Roles of Victorian Women (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1980; 1st pub. 1977), 6–7.

(73) Lord Malmesbury's journal, 26 Feb. 1852, quoted in earl of Malmesbury, Memoirs of an Ex-Minister: An Autobiography (2 vols., Longmans, Green & Co., 1884), i. 308–9.

(74) Cardigan, My Recollections, 108.

(75) Ibid. 111.

(76) Correspondence of J. Dart with Carlingford and Frances Waldegrave, Strachey MSS, DD/SH C1189 G217, passim.

(77) Lady Battersea (Constance Flower), Reminiscences (Macmillan, 1922), 51.

(78) Correspondence of E. M'Ivor and the duke of Sutherland, Sutherland MSS (Staffs.), D593 P/22/1/22, passim.

(79) George Loch to Harriet Sutherland, 30 Aug. 1856, Sutherland MSS (Staffs.), D593 P/22/1/25.

(80) George Loch to Harriet Sutherland, 28 Sept. and 9 Oct. 1856, Sutherland MSS (Staffs.), D593 P/22/1/25.

(81) Priscilla Westmorland to Pauline Neale, 30 June 1858, in Weigall (ed.), Correspondence of Priscilla Westmorland, 367.

(82) Mr Fowler to Harriet Sutherland, 23 and 24 Sept. 1856, Sutherland MSS (Staffs.), D593 P/22/1/25.

(83) George Loch to Harriet Sutherland, 31 Aug. 1856, Sutherland MSS (Staffs.), D593 P/20.

(84) ‘Memorandum’, [George Loch], 28 Sept. 1856, Sutherland MSS (Staffs.), D593 P/22/1/25.

(85) Eric Richards, The Leviathan of Wealth: The Sutherland Fortune in the Industrial Revolution (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973), p. 3.

(86) People's Paper, 12 Mar. 1853, p. 5 cols. a-b.

(87) George Loch to Harriet Sutherland, 31 Oct. 1856, Sutherland MSS (Staffs.), D593 P/22/1/25.

(88) Emily Palmerston to Richard Monckton Milnes, 7–8 Sept. [n.y.], Houghton MSS, 19/163.

(89) Tresham Lever, The Letters of Lady Palmerston (John Murray, 1957), 333.

(90) Emily Palmerston to Mr Fox, 18 Apr. 1858, quoted in ibid. 353.

(91) Rutland to Frances Anne Londonderry, 10 Feb. 1850, Londonderry MSS, D/Lo Acc 451 (D) File 33.

(92) Rutland to Frances Anne Londonderry, 7 Nov. 1850, Londonderry MSS, D/Lo Acc 451 File 34.

(93) Lady William Powlett to Frances Anne Londonderry, 30 Mar. 1851, Londonderry MSS, D/Lo Acc 451 (D) File 35.

(94) Lever, Letters of Lady Palmerston, 259. See too Airlie, Lady Palmerston and her Times, ii. 69, which also describes improvements made to the estate at Cliffoney, Co. Sligo, on Palmerston's behalf.

(95) Frances Anne Londonderry to Benjamin Disraeli, 9 Nov. 1847, Londonderry MSS, D/Lo/C 530 (33). On Lady Londonderry's visits to Garron Tower, see e.g. Frances Anne Londonderry to Benjamin Disraeli, 18 Sept. [1850], Londonderry MSS, D/Lo/ C 530 (92).

(96) John Andrews to Frances Anne Londonderry, 15 Nov. 1846, Londonderry MSS, D/Lo (Add), Correspondence File 28.

(97) Rutland to Frances Anne Londonderry, 8 Dec. 1847, Londonderry MSS, D/Lo (Add) Correspondence File 29.

(98) Somerset to Georgiana Somerset, 27 Aug. 1856, Bulstrode MSS, D/RA/A/2B/2/6.

(99) Charlotte Canning to Catherine Gladstone, 20 Aug. 1847, BL Add. MS 46,226, fos. 280–1. See also Augustus J. C. Hare, The Story of Two Noble Lives: Being Memorials of Charlotte, Countess Canning, and Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford (3 vols., George Allen, 1893), i and ii, passim. For an account of the kind of public works carried out on Irish estates in the 1840s, see Lady Dover to Harriet Sutherland, 20 Oct. [n.y.], Sutherland Papers, National Library of Scotland (hereafter Sutherland MSS (NLS)), Dep. 313/905.

(100) Grace St Albans to Frances Waldegrave, 10 Dec. [n.y.], Strachey MSS, DD/SH C1189 G281.

(101) George Loch to Harriet Sutherland, 30 Aug. 1856, Sutherland MSS (Staffs.), D593 P/22/1/25.

(102) ‘Pro's and Con's for moving from Bagshot to Holly Grove’, [Marquess of Hertford], [n.d.], Seymour of Ragley Papers, Warwickshire County Record Office (hereafter Seymour of Ragley MSS), CR114A/650.

(103) Anne Athole to Emily Murray MacGregor, 4 June 1896, Atholl MSS, Bundle 1649.

(104) Rutland to Frances Anne Londonderry, 22 Jan. 1854, Londonderry MSS, D/Lo Acc 451 File 18.

(105) Captain Henry Savile to Frances Anne Londonderry, 16 Jan. 1858, Londonderry MSS, D/Lo/C 182 (4).

(106) Georgiana Somerset to Somerset, [Apr. 1863], Bulstrode MSS, D/RA/4/91/3.

(107) ‘The Duties of Bailiff of Bulstrode Estate’, [1863], Bulstrode MSS, D/RA/4/91/4.

(108) H. Witham to Georgiana Somerset, 17 Feb. 1866, and Georgiana Somerset to H. Witham, 18 Feb. 1866, Bulstrode MSS, D/RA/4/94.

(109) Georgiana Somerset to Somerset, Monday [18 Feb. 1866], Bulstrode MSS, D/RA/4/95.

(110) Somerset to Georgiana Somerset, 7 Apr. 1863, Bulstrode MSS, D/RA/A/2B/2/79.

(111) Georgiana Somerset to J. C. King, 16 June 1879, Bulstrode MSS, D/RA/4/97.

(112) Georgiana Somerset to Godbeer, 23 June 1879, and to J. C. King, 23 June 1879, Bulstrode MSS, D/RA/4/97.

(113) Somerset to Georgiana Somerset, 23 Sept. 1858, Bulstrode MSS, D/RA/A/2B/2/59.

(114) F. D. How, Noble Women of our Time (Ibister & Co., 1903).

(115) Anne Athole's diary, 8 Mar. 1852 and 13 Mar. 1854, Atholl MSS, Bundle 639.

(116) Anne Athole to Athole, 26 Apr. and 15 May 1862, Atholl MSS, Box 61.

(117) Anne Athole to Mrs Home Drummond, 7 July 1862, Abercairny MSS, GD24/1/532, fos. 118–22.

(118) Malmesbury's journal, 2 July 1862, in Malmesbury, Memoirs of an Ex-Minister, i. 275.

(119) Anne Athole to Athole, 9 July 1862, Atholl MSS, Box 61.

(120) Anne Athole to Athole, 22 July 1844, Atholl MSS, Box 61.

(121) Glenlyon to Anne Glenlyon, [24 Dec. 1842], Atholl MSS, Box 61.

(122) Glenlyon to Anne Glenlyon, [14 Dec. 1842], Atholl MSS, Box 61.

(123) Anne Athole to Athole, 18 July 1847, Atholl MSS, Box 61.

(124) Anne Athole to Athole, 12 July 1853, Atholl MSS, Box 61.

(125) John, 7th duke of Athole, to Anne Athole, [1 Dec. 1881], Atholl MSS, Bundle 1656.

(126) John McGregor to Anne Athole, 1 Jan. 1880, Atholl MSS, Bundle 1664.

(127) Anne Athole to Emily Murray MacGregor, 6 Aug. 1887, Atholl MSS, Bundle 1659.

(128) Emily Palmerston to Mr Fox, 25 Aug. [1869], quoted in Lever, Letters of Lady Palmerston, 367.

(129) Harriet Morley's diary, 23 Oct. 1880 and 1 Jan. 1881, Parker of Saltram Papers, West Devon Record Office (hereafter Parker of Saltram MSS), Box 31.

(130) ‘Valuation of Freehold Estates of Dowager Countess of Morley’, Parker of Saltram MSS, Box 31.

(131) Frederick, 4th marquess of Londonderry, to Frances Anne Londonderry, 12 May 1854, Londonderry MSS, D/Lo/C 543 (1).

(132) The need for a separate residence was enhanced when the heir had a large family of his own and the father showed no signs of decline. Family tensions could also exacerbate the need for separate homes, and in the case of the quarrelsome Stanleys of Alderley, led to Edward and Henrietta Stanley preferring a house at some distance from the older generation at Alderley to a more proximate home. See Mitford (ed.), Ladies of Alderley, 24–5.

(133) R. F. Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History (Allen Lane, 1993), 50. See also George Thomas Watson to Milton, 5 Aug. 1854, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments, Sheffield City Library (hereafter Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments), WWM T28/4.

(134) Lord Malmesbury's journal, 8 Aug. 1845, in Malmesbury, Memoirs of an Ex-Minister, i. 160. See also Georgiana Somerset [Lady Seymour]'s letters to her children, Bulstrode MSS, D/RA/A/2A/284.

(135) Susan Wharncliffe's diary, 17 and 22 Nov. 1864, Wharncliffe Muniments, WhM 485.

(136) Sarah Lyttelton to Caroline Lyttelton, 5 Oct. 1849, in Hon. Mrs Hugh Wyndham (ed.), The Correspondence of Sarah Spencer, Lady Lyttelton, 1787–1870 (John Murray, 1912), 393.

(137) Palmerston to Emily Palmerston, 10 Sept. 1847, Broadlands MSS, BR23 AA/1.

(138) Anne Athole to Victoria, 21 Oct. 1851, Atholl MSS, Box 61.

(139) Thompson, English Landed Society, 76–81; Beckett, Aristocracy in England, 344–5. Such celebrations at Blair Atholl in the nineteenth century are recorded by John, duke of Athole, Chronicles of the Atholl and Tullibardine families, iv, (1908), 433–4, 435, 468–9, 478, and 486, while Lady Cardigan provides an amusing reminiscence of her reception on her re-marriage in My Recollections, 163.

(140) Palmerston to Emily Palmerston, 21 Oct. 1848, Broadlands MSS, BR23 AA/1.

(141) e.g. Athole to Anne Athole, 18 June 1846 and 16 June 1860, Atholl MSS, Box 61.

(142) Quoted in Osbert Wyndham Hewett, Strawberry Fair: A Biography of Frances, Countess Waldegrave 1821–1879 (John Murray, 1956), 46.

(143) Theo Mayo to Frances Waldegrave, 20 Aug. [n.y.], Strachey MSS, DD/SH C1189 G217.

(144) Grace St Albans to Frances Waldegrave, 14 Sept. [n.y.], Strachey MSS, DD/SH C1189 G281.

(145) Lady Dover to Harriet Sutherland, 4–5 Sept. 1838, Sutherland MSS (NLS), Dep. 313/903.

(146) Priscilla Westmorland to Pauline Neale, 16 Dec. 1856, in Weigall (ed.), Correspondence of Priscilla Westmorland, 303.

(147) Hewett, Strawberry Fair, 123.

(148) Harriet Morley's diary, 31 Jan. 1880 and 3 Jan. 1881, Parker of Saltram MSS, Box 31. See also e.g. Grace St Albans to Frances Waldegrave, [n.d.], Strachey MSS, DD/SH C1189 G281.

(149) Priscilla Westmorland to Pauline Neale, 5 Jan. 1858, in Weigall (ed.), Correspondence of Priscilla Westmorland, 352.

(150) For criticisms of the aristocracy, see e.g. Tomkins, Thoughts on the Aristocracy of England, and reviews of that work in Blackwood's Magazine, 38 (July 1835), 98–111; Edinburgh Review, 61 (Apr. 1835), 64–70; and Quarterly Review, 53 (1835), 540–8. See also ‘Hints to the Aristocracy’, Blackwoods Magazine, 35 (Jan. 1834), 68–80, which warns that the decline of social intercourse between aristocracy and gentry ‘opened the door to the Demon of Revolution’.

(151) Morning Post, 5 Jan. 1852, p. 7 col. c.

(152) Louisa Athole to Anne Athole, [24 Oct. 1888], Atholl MSS, Bundle 1657.

(153) Martin J. Wiener, English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit, 1850–1980 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), esp. 30–9.

(154) See for exceptions John Davies, Cardiff and the Marquesses of Bute (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1981); Hugh Malet, Bridgewater, the Canal Duke, 1736–1803 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1977); Richards, Leviathan of Wealth.

(155) For women and work, see e.g. Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, ch. 6; Tilly and Scott, Women, Work, and Family, passim; Nancy F. Cott, The Bonds of Womanhood: ‘Woman's Sphere’ in New England, 1780–1835 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), ch. 1; Catherine Clinton, The Other Civil War: American Women in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Hill & Wang, 1984), ch. 2.

(156) Guest and John, Lady Charlotte, 27–8.

(157) Rutland to Frances Anne Londonderry, 10 Dec. 1855, Londonderry MSS, D/Lo Acc 451 (D) File 18.

(158) Thompson, English Landed Society, 316–17; Beckett, Aristocracy in England, ch. 6, esp. 230–7. Of course, this account does not fully consider those industrialists who were raised to the peerage or the debate about their divestment of industrial interests. See W. D. Rubinstein, Elites and the Wealthy in Modern British History: Essays in Social and Economic History (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1987), chs. 6 and 8.

(159) Lady Westmorland considered that the ‘proximity of the coal-mines, which blacken everything’, made the Fitzwilliams ‘pay dearly Ȧ for the enormous income they produce’: Priscilla Westmorland to Pauline Neale, 20 Sept. 1861, in Weigall (ed.), Correspondence of Priscilla Westmorland, 423.

(160) Wharncliffe to Elizabeth Wharncliffe [n.d., 1843], in Caroline Grosvenor and Charles Beilby, Lord Stuart of Wortley (eds.), The First Lady Wharncliffe and Her family, 1779–1856 (2 vols., Heinemann, 1927), ii. 331–2.

(161) Isaac, 15th earl of Portsmouth, to Eveline Portsmouth, [n.d. 1856?], Wallop MSS, Hampshire Record Office (hereafter Wallop MSS), 15M84, Box 30.

(162) Henry, 4th earl of Carnarvon, to Eveline Portsmouth, 15 Jan. 1862, Wallop MSS, 15M84, Box 30.

(163) Rutland to Frances Anne Londonderry, 12 Feb. 1854, Londonderry MSS, D/Lo Acc 451 (D) File 18.

(164) wett, Strawberry Fair, 170.

(165) John Parfitt to Frances Waldegrave, 12 June 1856, Strachey MSS, DD/SH C1189 G214.

(166) Samuel Waldegrave, bishop of Carlisle, to Frances Waldegrave, 11 Sept. 1856, Strachey MSS, DD/SH C1189 G292.

(167) George Loch to Harriet Sutherland, 22 Oct. 1856, Sutherland MSS (Staffs.), D593 P/22/1/25.

(168) ‘Child & Co.: Three Hundred Years at No. 1 Fleet Street’, Three Banks Review, 98 (June 1973), 46–7. I owe this reference to Robert Brown.

(169) Disraeli to Selina Bradford, 20 Apr. 1874, in the Marquess of Zetland (ed.), The Letters of Disraeli to Lady Bradford and Lady Chesterfield (2 vols., Ernest Benn, 1929), i. 74.

(170) See Londonderry, Frances Anne, esp. ch. 9, and Guest and John, Lady Charlotte, passim.

(171) Londonderry, Frances Anne, 26.

(172) Ibid. 71, emphasis added.

(173) Public statement by Lord Londonderry, 3 July 1844, quoted in Londonderry, Frances Anne, 233–4.

(174) Benjamin Disraeli to Frances Anne Londonderry, 2 Aug. 1850, Londonderry MSS, D/Lo/C 530 (89).

(175) Londonderry, Frances Anne, 263.

(176) Guest and John, Lady Charlotte, 173.

(177) Ibid. 31.

(178) Londonderry, Frances Anne, 276–80.

(179) Guest and John, Lady Charlotte, 123

(180) Earl of Bessborough (ed.), Lady Charlotte Guest: Extracts from her Journal 1833–1852 (John Murray, 1950), 43, 110–11.

(181) Guest and John, Lady Charlotte, 130–1.

(182) Ibid. 131.

(183) Bessborough (ed.), Lady Charlotte Guest, 89.

(184) The discussion which follows is based on Guest and John, Lady Charlotte, 173–8.

(185) Frances Anne Londonderry to Benjamin Disraeli, 24 July [1854], Londonderry MSS, D/Lo/C 530 (112).

(186) Quoted in Londonderry, Frances Anne, 268.

(187) Ibid. 272; Ralph Ward Jackson to Frances Anne Londonderry, 12 Dec. 1861, Londonderry MSS, D/Lo/C 182 (19).

(188) Rutland to Frances Anne Londonderry, 6 Mar. 1856, Londonderry MSS, D/Lo Acc 451 (D) File 18.

(189) Disraeli to Frances Anne Londonderry, 4 Mar. [1856], Londonderry MSS, D/Lo/C 530 (162).

(190) Guest and John, Lady Charlotte, 71–2.

(191) Londonderry, Frances Anne, 277–9.

(192) The Times, 3 Mar. 1856, p. 7 col. f.