Stapleton Cotton, first Viscount Combermere (1773–1865)
Stapleton, Cotton, first Viscount Combermere (1773–1865), army officer, was born on 14 November 1773, second son and fifth child of Sir Robert Salusbury Cotton, fifth baronet (c.1739–1809), of Combermere Abbey, Whitchurch, Shropshire, and his wife, Frances (d. 1825), daughter and coheir of Colonel James Russell Stapleton of Bodrhyddan, Denbighshire. He was born at the old seat of the Stapletons, Lleweni Hall, Denbighshire, where his father lived until he succeeded to the baronetcy in 1773. His father, MP for Cheshire for forty years, was devoted to country pursuits and very hospitable, which eventually caused him to sell the Stapleton estates for £200,000. At the age of eight Stapleton Cotton was sent to a grammar school at Audlem, a few miles away, where Vernon Harcourt, afterwards archbishop of York, was once a schoolfellow, and where his education was neglected. A quick, lively boy, he was known by his family as Young Rapid, and was continually in scrapes. Afterwards, he spent four years at Westminster School (entered 28 January 1785), his father then having a town house in Berkeley Square. Next he went to a private military academy at Norwood House, Bayswater, kept by Major Reynolds of the Shropshire militia, where he learned little more than cleaning his musket and equipment. His father married twice. Charles's mother was his father's second wife, Frances, daughter of Charles Pratt, 1st Earl Camden, a leading English jurist. Charles was his father's second son. His half-brother from his father's first marriage was Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, who made a brilliant diplomatic and political career. He and his half-brother remained lifelong friends and wrote each other many letters. His half-brother's influence helped to make his father a Marquess and to launch and further Charles in his own diplomatic career.
On 26 February 1790 Cotton obtained a second lieutenancy without purchase in the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers, and joined the corps in Dublin in 1791. He became first lieutenant on 16 March 1791, and served the regiment until 28 February 1793, when he was promoted to a troop in the 6th carabiniers, formerly the 3rd Irish horse. The drinking and duelling of its officers gave Cotton's friends concern, but his temperate habits and good temper kept him out of trouble. He embarked with his regiment in August 1793 and joined the duke of York's army just after the siege of Dunkirk; he took part in the campaigns of that year and the following spring, when he was present at Prémont and the cavalry battle at Le Cateau in 1794. A few days after the latter Cotton was promoted to a majority in the 59th foot, and on 9 March 1794 became lieutenant-colonel of the newly raised 25th light dragoons, then known as Gwyn's hussars. He commanded the regiment in the south of England, including at Weymouth, where he was noticed by George III and his family. He was lieutenant colonel of the 5th Royal Irish Dragoons by the time he helped put down the Irish Rebellion of 1798.In 1796 he went with his regiment to the Cape, arriving about July. The regiment then went on to Madras, and served through the campaign against Tipu Sultan of Mysore in 1799, including the siege of Seringapatam, during which Cotton appears to have become acquainted with Colonel Arthur Wellesley. Cotton's elder brother having died, his father procured for Cotton an exchange home. Accordingly, he joined the 16th light dragoons on the Kentish coast.
On 1 March 1801 Cotton married the beautiful Lady Anna Maria Pelham-Clinton (1783–1807), eldest daughter of the third duke of Newcastle and his wife, Anna Maria. Cotton and his first wife had no surviving children. He was later stationed with his regiment in Ireland. Cotton, who attained the rank of colonel on 1 January 1800, became a major-general on 30 October 1805, and for a time commanded a cavalry brigade at Weymouth under the duke of Cumberland. In 1803, Stewart was appointed aide-de-camp to King George III.From 1806 to 1814 he was tory MP for Newark. His wife died in 1807 of consumption. In 1808 he was sent to Portugal with a brigade comprising the 14th and 16th light dragoons, and one squadron of the 20th light dragoons. The brigade served on the Portuguese frontier during Moore's campaign in Spain, and afterwards in the north of Portugal in 1809, including the operations against Porto. Until the arrival of Lieutenant-General Payne, Cotton commanded the allied cavalry. At Talavera he commanded a brigade and did notable service.The remainder of his military career developed during the Napoleonic Wars, more exactly in the Peninsular War. The war started with the Corunna Campaign (1808–1809), in which the British troops were commanded by Sir John Moore. In this campaign Charles Stewart commanded a brigade of cavalry, and played, together with Lord Paget, a prominent role in the cavalry clash of Benavente where the French General Lefebvre-Desnouettes was taken prisoner.
When the British troops returned to the Iberian Peninsular after the Corunna Campaign, they were commanded by Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington). Charles Stewart was appointed, in April 1809, Adjutant General to Wellesley. This was an administrative job and not much to his liking, especially as Wellesley never discussed his decisions with subordinates. Nevertheless, he sometimes managed to see action and distinguished himself, particularly at the battle of Talavera (July 1809) for which he received the thanks of the Parliament on 2 February 1810 when he returned to England on sick leave. He also excelled at Bussaco in September 1810 and at Fuentes de Oñoro (May 1811) where he took a French Colonel prisoner in single combat.
He resigned his position as Adjutant General in February 1812. Some say due to bad health, but some say that Wellington fired him. Wellington apparently appreciated him as a soldier but judged him a "sad brouillon and mischief-maker" among his staff. On 20 November 1813, he was made Colonel of the 25th Light Dragoons, an honorary position. He became a Knight Companion of the Bath that same year.He was also made Knight Grand Cross of the Guelphic Order (GCH) in 1816 and colonel of the 10th Hussars on 3 February 1820.
News reached Cotton of his father's death at the end of 1809, and in January 1810 he went home. A baronet with a substantial estate (which, through his father's unbusiness-like habits, was in much need of supervision), a man of fashion, and welcomed in society, Cotton had many inducements to remain at home. But he preferred his military career, his qualifications for which, owing, perhaps, to his youthful appearance and his modesty, were not always fully recognized. He was of moderate stature, sparely built, very active, and an excellent horseman. Splendidly dressed—his uniform and horse trappings were reportedly worth 500 guineas ransom—and ever foremost in danger, he was known as the Lion d'Or, but did not expose his men or fatigue his horses unnecessarily. Wellington, who recognized the necessity of husbanding his inadequate force of cavalry, said that in entrusting an order to Cotton he knew it would be carried out with discretion as well as zeal.
On rejoining the army in the summer of 1810 Cotton was appointed to the command of the 1st division, and afterwards to that of the whole of the allied cavalry, with the local rank of lieutenant-general. He attained the same rank in the British army on 1 January 1812. According to Sir Charles Oman, Cotton 'was hardly up to his position, though he earned his chief's tolerance by strict obedience to orders, a greater merit in the Duke's eyes than military genius or initiative' (Oman, 36). Among his more important services at the head of the cavalry—which constituted a separate division after May 1811—were the covering of the retreat from Almeida to Torres Vedras, from July to September 1810, in which not one baggage wagon was abandoned; the successful action at Llerena, on 11 April 1812, when he attacked and defeated a superior force of Soult's rear-guard; his action at Castrejon, near Salamanca, on 18 July 1812, when with Anson's brigade of cavalry and the 4th and light divisions he held Marmont's entire army at bay and defeated plans that would have jeopardized the whole British army; and his services at the battle of Salamanca, where he was second in command under Lord Wellington, and led the charge of Le Marchant's and Anson's heavy brigades. Wellington wrote of Cotton that he commanded the cavalry very well, and better than some who might be supposed cleverer than he. Wellington apparently objected to Lord Bathurst's idea of conferring a peerage on Cotton, for fear of offending Marshal Beresford, Cotton's senior in the army. A slow voyage made him three days late for the battle of Vitoria, but he commanded the allied cavalry throughout the ensuing campaigns in Spain and southern France until the peace, including the actions in the Pyrenees, at Orthez, and at Toulouse.
On his return home Cotton, who was already KCB (1812), on 17 May 1814 was raised to the peerage as Baron Combermere of Combermere, Chester, with a pension of £2000 a year for his own and two succeeding lives. He was also awarded Hanoverian, Portuguese, and Spanish orders. On 18 June 1814, at Lambeth Palace, he married Caroline (c.1793–1837), second daughter of Captain W. Fulke Greville RN, and twenty years his junior. They had a son, Wellington Henry, second viscount (1818–1891), and two daughters. Among their common interests was music, Combermere having some vocal pretensions and his wife being an accomplished musician. On Napoleon's return from Elba, to Wellington's annoyance, command of the cavalry in Belgium was given, at the insistence of the prince regent, to Lord Uxbridge. However, after Waterloo Wellington invited Combermere to Paris, where he arrived on 18 July 1815, and commanded the allied cavalry in France until the following year, when the army of occupation was reduced. In 1815 he was made GCB.
In 1796, he was elected to the Irish House of Commons as Tory representative for Thomastown, County Kilkenny, and after only two months exchanged this seat for that of Londonderry County. He sat for the latter constituency until the Act of Union in 1801, and then represented Londonderry in the British House of Commons until 1814. In 1807 he became Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies.
From 1813 until the end of the war, he was Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Berlin, and was also Military Commissioner with the allied armies, being wounded at the Battle of Kulm.
The recipient of numerous foreign honours, Stewart was also ennobled as Baron Stewart, of Stewart's Court and Ballylawn in County Donegal, in 1814 by the Prince Regent. In the same year, he received honorary degrees from Oxford and Cambridge, was admitted to the Privy Council, and was appointed a Lord of the Bedchamber to the King.
He was also appointed Ambassador to Austria, a post he held for nine years (1814–1823), and attended the Congress of Vienna with his half-brother Lord Castlereagh as one of the British plenipotentiaries. The historian Adam Zamoyski says that he made a spectacle of himself with his loutish behaviour, was apparently rather often inebriated, frequented prostitutes quite openly, and once even started a fist-fight in the middle of the street with a Viennese coach driver after he punched the coachman's horse.
He quit the diplomatic service in 1823 after his half-brother's death in 1822. Queen Victoria had a low esteem of the Marquess of Londonderry's abilities as a civil servant. She said that he should, in her opinion, not be given any post of importance.
In 1817 Cotton was appointed governor of Barbados and commander-in-chief in the Leeward Islands, which he held until June 1820. He tactfully restored friendly relations with the French West Indian islands, disturbed by a supposed discourtesy to the French flag by a British warship. From 1822 to 1825 he was commander-in-chief in Ireland. A new commander-in-chief in India being then needed, and an expedition against Bharatpur being likely, Combermere was selected by the directors of the East India Company, reportedly on the advice of Wellington. An anecdote about Wellington's interview with the directors, published at the end of the century by G. W. E. Russell in his Collections and Recollections (1898), enjoyed wide currency, but was inaccurate (see R. W. Knollys in The Times, 9 Nov 1945). Combermere, who attained the rank of general on 27 May 1825, had by then started for India, leaving his wife at home. The attack on Bharatpur was successful; the great Jat fortress, a menace to British rule ever since Lord Lake failed against it twenty years before, was destroyed. Combermere was made a viscount in 1827, and on 16 September 1829 colonel of the 1st Life Guards, having already been colonel of the 20th light dragoons 1813–18 and of the 3rd light dragoons 1821–9. He remained in India for the customary five years, during nine months of which he acted as governor-general while Lord Amherst was away in the hills, and returned home in 1830.
Back in England, Londonderry befriended Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III) while the latter was exiled in London between 1836 and 1840. After Bonaparte had been elected president of France in 1851, Londonderry asked him to free Abd-el-Kader.
By the time of the Great Irish Famine in the 1840s, Londonderry was one of the ten richest men in the United Kingdom. While many landlords made efforts to mitigate the worst effects of the famine on their tenants, Londonderry was criticised for meanness: he and his wife gave only £30 to the local relief committee but spent £150,000 (£13.3 million as of 2019) renovating Mount Stewart, their Irish home.Nevertheless, Debbie Orme maintains that "the Marquis was held in high regard in the land for his attempts to alleviate suffering during the potato famine". During the tenant right campaign of the early 1850s Londonderry insisted on his full rights and this alienated many of his tenants. He was in disagreement over this question with his son and heir Frederick, who was more liberally inclined.
On his return Combermere separated from his second wife, who died in January 1837. In 1838 Combermere married his third wife, Mary Woolley Gibbings (d. 1889), only child of Robert Gibbings of Gibbings Grove, co. Cork. They had no children. His last thirty years were passed in the performance of his parliamentary and social duties. An old-fashioned tory, he opposed Catholic emancipation, the Reform Bill, repeal of the corn laws, army short service, and other innovations. From 1840 he was provincial grand master of the freemasons of Cheshire. He was governor of Sheerness from 1821 until 1852. On Wellington's death he was made constable of the Tower of London, and in 1855 a field marshal. Suffering from a severe cold, Cotton died at Colchester House, Clifton, on 21 February 1865, and was buried in the family vault in the church at Wrenbury, Cheshire.
His first wife was Lady Catherine Bligh, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Darnley. Charles married her on 8 August 1804 at the church of St George's, Hanover Square, London; she was three years older than he. She bore him a son, named Frederick, who was to become the 4th Marquess of Londonderry. She died during the night of 10–11 February 1812, of fever following a minor operation, while her husband was on his way home from Spain.
Lord Stewart married his second wife, Lady Frances Anne Vane-Tempest, daughter and heiress of Sir Henry Vane-Tempest, on 3 April 1819 at her mother's house in Bruton Street, Mayfair, and took her surname of Vane, by Royal licence, as had been stipulated in her father's will. He was henceforth known as Charles William Vane, while his son out of his first marriage remained Frederick Stewart. He used his new bride's immense wealth to acquire the Seaham Hall estate in County Durham with a view to developing the coalfields there. He also built the harbour at Seaham, to rival nearby Sunderland.
He commissioned Benjamin Wyatt to build a mansion at Wynyard Park. It was completed by Philip Wyatt in 1841 and cost £130,000 (equivalent to £10,772,000 in 2016) to build and furnish. Unfortunately, just as the mansion was being completed, a fire broke out and gutted the house; it was later restored and remodelled by Ignatius Bonomi.
The family also used their newfound wealth to redecorate their country seat in Ireland, Mount Stewart, and bought Holdernesse House on London's Park Lane, which they renamed Londonderry House.
Lord Stewart succeeded his half-brother as 3rd Marquess of Londonderry in 1822. The following year he was created Earl Vane and Viscount Seaham, of Seaham in the County Palatine of Durham, with remainder to the heirs male of the body of his second wife.
Governor of County Londonderry from 1823, Londonderry was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Durham in 1842 and the following year became Colonel of the 2nd Regiment of Life Guards. Queen Victoria finally made him a Knight of the Garter in 1853, and he died a year later at Londonderry House. His widow honoured him by the Londonderry Equestrian Statue in Durham. His son Frederick built Scrabo Tower near Newtownards as a monument to the memory of his father.
He was succeeded as Marquess of Londonderry by Frederick Stewart, the only child from his first marriage, and as Earl Vane by George Vane, the eldest son from his second marriage. At Charles's death Frederick, therefore, became the 4th Marquess of Londonderry, whereas George became the 2nd Earl Vane. George was later to become the 5th Marquess after his half-brother had died childless.
Charles was styled:
The Honourable Charles Stewart from 1789 until 1813 (because his father was created Baron Londonderry in 1789),
The Honourable Sir Charles Stewart from 1813 to 1814 (because he was made a Knight of the Bath),
The Right Honourable The Lord Stewart from 1814 to 1822 (because he was made a baron in his own right), and finally
The Most Honourable The Lord Londonderry.
By Catherine Bligh:
Frederick William Robert Stewart, 4th Marquess of Londonderry (1805–1872)
By Frances Anne Emily Vane-Tempest:
George Henry Robert Charles William Vane-Tempest, 5th Marquess of Londonderry (1821–1884)
Lady Frances Anne Emily Vane (1822–1899); married John Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough.
Lady Alexandrina Octavia Maria Vane (1823–1874), godchild of Alexander I of Russia; married Henry Dawson-Damer, 3rd Earl of Portarlington.
Lord Adolphus Frederick Charles William Vane-Tempest (1825–1864), politician; became insane, and had to be medically restrained.
Lady Adelaide Emelina Caroline Vane (c.1830–1882); disgraced the family by eloping with her brother's tutor, Rev. Frederick Henry Law.
Lord Ernest McDonnell Vane-Tempest (1836–1885), fell in with a press-gang and had to be bought a commission in the army, from which he was subsequently cashiered.
Through his daughter Lady Frances, Lord Londonderry is a great-grandfather of Winston Churchill.
Thomas Heaphy, (1775–1835), watercolour painter, was born in the parish of St Giles Cripplegate, London, on 29 December 1775, the son of John Gerrard Heaphy, and Katharine Gerard, always referred to as a Frenchwoman, and presumably a member of a family of Huguenot silk weavers in the Spitalfields colony. The romantic tale of the father's noble origins, as given in the Dictionary of National Biography, has all the hallmarks of a family legend, but is unmentioned by Thomas Frank Heaphy in his manuscript in the Royal Watercolour Society archive. Thomas Heaphy showed a love of drawing at an early age, but was first apprenticed to a dyer, before his articles were transferred to the engraver R. M. Meadows. In his spare time he attended a drawing school in Bloomsbury, run either, according to his son, by an otherwise unknown painter named Simpson, or more probably by the caricaturist John Boyne. His first wife, Mary Stevenson, whom he married in 1800, was the sister of a fellow pupil. They had three daughters and two sons, Thomas and Charles Heaphy. Of the daughters, Mary Anne, Mrs Musgrave, became a miniaturist and watercolour portrait painter who exhibited from the early 1820s; and Elizabeth, Mrs Murray (1815–1882), specialized in Mediterranean and other street and figure subjects. She was elected to the New Society of Painters in Water Colours, now the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, in 1861. Heaphy first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1797, showing portraits in oil, but he soon realized that his talent was for watercolour, and also that the market for portraits was a crowded one.
From 1807 Heaphy was a regular contributor to the exhibitions of the newly formed Society of Painters in Water Colours (later the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours), where he made his name with impressive and highly detailed pictures of fish and vegetable markets, inspired by Dutch still lifes with figures, and other scenes of working-class life. These enjoyed a great vogue for several years. His Hastings Fish Market, exhibited in 1809, sold for 450 guineas to the daughter of the great collector William Wells of Redleaf, Kent. At this point he returned to portrait painting, with very considerable success and, despite his having objected to the royal family being allowed into the exhibitions before they opened, he painted Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold and was appointed portrait painter to the princess of Wales. In 1812 he resigned from the Society of Painters in Water Colours and in the following year he put on an exhibition of his own work. This does not appear to have been a great success, and, on the duke of Wellington's invitation, he accompanied the British army through the Peninsular campaign to its end at the battle of Toulouse. There he painted portraits of both officers and men, and on his return he produced his most important work, a large watercolour of the duke of Wellington giving orders to his staff prior to a battle. It included portraits of about fifty officers. The engraving after the watercolour by Anker Smith, finished and published by Heaphy himself, appeared in 1822 (impression in the NPG, together with three other portraits of Wellington by Heaphy). The National Portrait Gallery also has a watercolour by Heaphy of a youthful Lord Palmerston. In the previous year he had begun to publish a series of prints, in issues of six, Studies from Nature of British Character. They were after his chalk studies of the heads of soldiers, sailors, and peasants. In the early 1820s he gave up painting and became a speculator in the development in north-west London of St John's Wood. This sabbatical told on his work when he returned to painting in 1824, and he admitted that 'my power is gone from me' (MS notes by his son, Thomas Heaphy, Royal Watercolour Society archive, J.46). Nevertheless he was a promoter and first president of the Society of British Artists, sending fourteen works to its first exhibition. He resigned a year later, and in 1831 he went to Italy in search of new inspiration. Despite an early dislike of ‘academic art’ he made fine copies of old masters while there, but after his return to England in mid-1832 he produced little more. He died at his home, 8 St John's Wood Road, London, on 23 October 1835 and was buried in Bunhill Fields. His first wife had died some time after 1820; his second wife, Harriet Jane Mason, survived him.
Heaphy's subject pictures were realistic representations of nature. His miniatures and other portraits, which were also usually on a small scale, were characterized by truthfulness, delicacy of colour, and beauty of finish. He was a versatile and ingenious man, and an enthusiast for mechanical inventions. Though it has been stated that he was always opposed to the Royal Academy—despite Benjamin West's praise for his work—he exhibited there from 1803 to the end of his life. There are examples of his work in the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery, London; the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh; and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.