We all know that during the Regency era, persona non gratis included Old Boney, the wicked Lord Byron, and assorted other historical figures.
Yet, there are also a list of other, lesser known historical figures that sometimes get painted in less than favorable lights.
Recently, I have read several books which present Mrs. Drummond Burrell as a sort of villaness, starchy and mean spirited. So, of course, that got me wondering whether this was just artistic license or whether some of these characters, lady Patronesses included, really were as awful as they are depicted.
Sarah Clementina Drummond was the only surving child of the Earl of Perth, Lord Drummond. Born in 1786, she married the “chief of the dandies” Peter Burrell in 1807 (Letters of Dorothea, princess Lieven, during her residence in London, 1812-1834). At the urging of his father, Burrell hypenated his last name to include the prestigious Drummond surname (and my husband thought I was the first person in history to suggest a man take his wife’s name, too!) Along with the name, Peter also got to enjoy in the inheritance of Drummond Castle in Perthshire, Scotland. More of a manor house with a historic 1400s tower, the Earl began a number of improvements that were continued by his daughter Sarah and her husband. These included the formal gardens and terraces in the 1830s.
One of the younger Patronesses, she was considered to be overly grand and a high stickler for propriety. With her husband eventually succeeding to two baronetcy’s, one wonders if she wasn’t just trying to remind everyone her father was an Earl.
From historical records, I was able to discover that Mrs. Drummond Burrell threw loud and late parties and also gave $2,000 of land to the Lodge St. Michael, so she was charitable.
Interestingly enough, dandy husband Mr. Drummond Burrell also was a sort of Patroness, wielding sway over the ladies of Almack’s. Sarah had reportedly “insisted” on marrying him, and he was well happy as she was a notable heiress (http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1790-1820/member/drummond-burrell-hon-peter-robert-1782-1865). Apparently the Dandy lifestyle was quite expensive, and has his father had already racked up family debt, Peter was forced to go abroad for a time to avoid debtor’s prison.
No doubt, Sarah was sewn up in a shroud of her own making. Scottish, young, and married to an untitled fortune hunter, she seemed bent on proving herself.
In a letter to C. Kirkpatrick Sharpe from the Earl Gower in 1808, it was remarked “I hear the H. Drummonds cannot come to town for want of money to pay post-horses. They must be heartily tired of each other by this time. I am really very sorry for her, that she should have been so foolish as to throw herself so completely away.”
The next letter to C. Kirpatrick is from the lady herself. She writes from Drummond Castle in April 13th a bunch of stuff and nonsense about franking letters and bringing her uncle, the Lord High Chancellor down in a bodkin.
Harriet Granville’s letter are much more acerbic. In a letter to Lady Morpeth she says “A little Drummond Burrell, shrewd, prudent, crepee.”
Now I am not quite sure if she means crepe like the food, or crepe the adjective meaning backcombed (ratty or teased hair)…but I am sure that its not an entirely flattering description.
I will continue my investigation into the villians of the Regency world, and hopefully turn up more historical records of the Drummond Burrells in the process to answer why she is so villianized.
In the meantime, you may submit your own favorite villians by comment or tweet!