The Twickenham Museum
People : Royals, Peers and Courtiers

Charlotte, Countess of Drogheda

1702 - 1735

Next to the grave of Alexander Pope in the nave of St Mary’s Church, Twickenham, a large black marble ledgerstone records the short life, and burial here, of Charlotte (née Boscawen), the widow of Henry Moore, 4th Earl of Drogheda (1700-1727). The inscription on the stone, surmounted by a coat of arms reads:

The Right Honourable the Countess
of DROGHEDA Eldest Daughter of ye
LORD VISCOUNT FALMOUTH, dy’d April
the 3d 1735 in the 32d Year of her Age
and will by all that had the happinefs
to be Acquainted with her, be for Ever Lamented


The quarterings on the coat of arms have not been identified. The motto, FORTIS CADERE CEDERE NON POTEST is the Moore (Drogheda) family motto. Viscount Falmouth was Hugh Boscawen (c1680-1734).

A Visitor to Twickenham

From 1732 she rented a house in Montpelier Row, dying there three years later. This made her a near neighbour of her cousin, John Robartes, (1686-1757), later 4th and last Earl of Radnor of the first creation, at the house later known as Radnor House in Cross Deep.

The Robartes, Boscawen and Moore (Drogheda) families were inter-connected. Hugh Boscawen's older brother William (1657-1680) married Lady Anne Fitzgerald in 1679. He died of smallpox in the following year and she married the Hon Francis Robartes (1649/50-1718), the father of John Robartes. Francis had a sister, Lady Letitia Isabella (c1648-1685), who married, in 1669, Charles Moore, 2nd Earl of Drogheda (d1679).

Thus John Robartes and Charlotte, née Boscawen, could probably be described, loosely, as cousins.

Had Lady Letitia remained the Dowager Countess of Drogheda from 1679, so described she would have been the aunt, by marriage, of Lady Charlotte. However, following the death of the earl in July that year, she married the playwright William Wycherley (1640-1715) secretly, in September. Apparently they first met in a Tunbridge Wells bookshop. She died in 1685 bequeathing him her estate. This caused trouble with the 3rd Earl, with lawsuits for a number of years and the 4th earl's estates were diminished to pay costs.

Her Will

On 23 April 1732 the countess wrote her will, notable for its brevity. She bequeathed all her worldly goods (no property was mentioned), to her “best and dearest friend Sidney Meadows Esq” her named executor, and signed the will without witnesses. She apparently had no debts, nor money or staff. Following depositions from James Pulse and Francis Wallis, the will was Proved and Probate granted on 9 April 1735.

Sidney Meadows (c1699-1792) of Conholt near Andover was her cousin, the eldest son of Sir Philip Meadows and Dorothy, née Boscawen, the sister of her father, Hugh Boscawen. The countess's evident affection for her cousin might perhaps have led to marriage but for the closeness of the blood relationship.

In fact Meadows did not marry until 1742. In 1758 he was appointed Knight Marshall of the Marshalsea Court in Southwark, succeeding his father in that post. He held this until his death, when (a later) Hugh Boscawen was appointed. He was a consummate horseman, the subject of an equestrian portrait by Stubbs in 1778, and managed an equestrian establishment in Half-Moon Street, London for many years.

Meadows' sister, Mary (1713-43), became a Maid of Honour to Queen Caroline at the Court of George II. Mrs Eliza Haywood cast her in the role of Arilla in “The Secret History of the present Intrigues of the Court of Carimania”. In real life she was celebrated by Pope “for her prudence” and Mrs Hayward was added to the pantheon of dullness in The Dunciad Variorum (book II, 149 et seq).

Marriage

Charlotte married Henry, the 4th Earl on 11 February 1719/20. She was 17 and he was 19. There was a daughter of the union, who died in infancy. Henry had succeeded to the title at the age of 13, in 1714. Because of his age a guardian was appointed by the lord chancellor of Ireland. Although stated to have been his grandmother, Lady Drogheda, this seems unlikely because no such countess was actually alive: his grandmother had remarried Viscount Newhaven in 1688, dying in July 1714. Nevertheless, a later Countess, Anne, writing in 1902 (History of the Moore Family) noted the following:

“Succeeding to the family estates at the age of 13, Drogheda promptly took to drink. His grandmother and guardian, Lady Drogheda, then sent him on the grand tour, accompanied by a French Huguenot refugee as governor. At Brussels, in June 1717, he gave his companion the slip and set off alone for Paris, informing his grandmother that he could no longer bear the man's 'peevish humours'. Running short of money in Paris, he returned home, where, in 1719, his grandmother obtained from the lord chancellor of Ireland a release from responsibility for him, writing 'sure he exceeds all the youth that ever went before him for wickedness'. An allowance of £1,500 p.a. was granted him, which he invariably exceeded. Having dissipated his fortune in racing and every kind of extravagance, he died at Dublin 29 May 1727, aged 26, leaving debts exceeding £180,000, which forced his successor to sell a large portion of the family's estates in co. Louth.”

Having married into a respected Cornish family, Henry was introduced by his father-in-law, to the Borough of Camelford at the General election of 1722, elected MP, and served until his death.

It cannot, for Charlotte, have been a happy marriage and for the remaining 8 years of her life she probably relied on family support. Edward, the 5th Earl (1701-1758) was her brother-in-law and a contemporary. Engaged with paying off his brother's huge debts, supporting the widowed dowager countess may not have ranked high on his list. Henry does not appear to have made a will and may not have provided for his wife financially. It seems likely that John Robartes, known to be of a kindly nature, had taken her under his wing.

further reading

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Cracroft's Peerage online

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