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THE DUCHESS OF KINGSTON.
With talents of no mean order, with personal attractions that charmed every eye, and with accomplishments, captivating, even after the influence of beauty had ceased to exert itself, the celebrated lady, the heroine of the extraordinary episode in real life we are about to recount, lived a memorable example of the inefficacy of wealth or grandeur to secure happiness. Many supposed facts, the offspring of invention, have been detailed concerning her. These we entirely reject. What our narrative may lose in copiousness, it will gain in authenticity—if unadorned by the brilliancy of fiction, it will be still more attractive, from the impress of truth.
ELIZABETH CHUDLEIGH, as she herself strangely enough boasted in her defence, “ was born of an ancient, not ignoble family-the women distinguished for their virtue, the men for their valour-descended, in an honourable and uninterrupted line, for three centuries
and a half. Sir John Chudleigh, the last male heir, lost his life at the siege of Ostend, at eighteen years of age, gloriously preferring to die with his colours in his bosom, rather than accept of quarter from a gallant French officer, who, in compassion to his youth, three times offered him his life for that ensign, which was shot through his heart.”
She was the only daughter of Colonel Thomas Chudleigh, of Chelsea Hospital (second son of Sir George Chudleigh, Bart., of Ashton, in Devon), and was born in the year 1720. The early part of her life was spent in the country; but about the year 1740, she came to London, and, in 1743, obtained, through the influence of Mr. Pulteney, the appointment of Maid of Honour to the Princess of Wales. Her wit and beauty soon attracted many admirers, and gained for her, it is said, a serious offer of marriage from the Duke of Hamilton. But, in the summer of 1744, while his Grace was on the Continent, Miss Chudleigh contracted an acquaintance with Mr. Hervey, which began by the mere accident of an interview at Winchester races. He was then a boy of eighteen years of age, of small fortune, the younger son of a noble family. He held the commission of lieutenant of the Cornwall, part of Sir John Davers's squadron, then lying at Portsmouth, and destined for the West Indies.
At this period, Miss Chudleigh, with her aunt, Mrs. Ilanmer, happened to be on a visit at Lainston, the house of her cousin, Mr. Merrill. For a young person circumstanced as she was, the attentions of Mr. Hervey were not unacceptable. The prudence of the aunt probably suggested, that Mr. Hervey might be no disadvantageous match for her niece, and all her endeavours were exerted to accomplish the object. Hamilton's letters were intercepted and destroyed, and the ill-fated young lady led to believe that she was entirely forgotten. In this state of feeling she became an easy prey. The young officer was invited to Lainston, and carried the ladies to see his ship at Portsmouth. In the August following, he made a second visit, during which the marriage was contracted.
The circumstances of the parties were such as rendered it impossible, or improvident in a degree next to impossible, that such a marriage should be celebrated solemnly, or publicly announced to the world. The fortune of both was insufficient to maintain them in that station to which the husband's birth and his wife's ambition had pretensions. The income of her place would have ceased; and the displeasure of the noble relatives of Mr. Hervey rendered it ruinous on his part to avow the connexion. The consequence was, a determination on both sides to keep the marriage secret. It became necessary, for that purpose, to celebrate it with the utmost privacy; and, accordingly, no other witnesses attended but such as had been apprised of the circumstances, and were thought necessary to establish the fact, in case it should ever be disputed.
Lainston is a small parish, the value of the living being but fifteen pounds a year; Mr. Merrill's the only house in it, with the parish-church at the end of his garden. On the 4th of August, 1744, Mr. Amis, the then rector, was appointed to be at the church alone, late at night. At eleven o'clock, Mr. Hervey and Miss Chudleigh went out, as if to walk in the garden, followed by Mrs. Hanmer, her servant, Mr. Merrill, and a friend of his, Mr. Mountenay, which last carried a taper to read the service by. They found Mr. Amis in the church, according to his appointment, and there the service was celebrated, Mr. Mountenay holding the taper in his hat.
The ceremony being performed, Mrs. Hanmer's maid was dispatched to see that the coast was clear, and the party returned to the house without being observed by any of the servants. The marriage was thus concluded. Mr. Hervey stayed two or three days longer, after which he was obliged to return to his ship, which had received sailing orders.
The lady resumed her station of maid of honour to the Princess Dowager, and Mr. Hervey proceeded in the November following to the West Indies, where he remained until August, 1746. In the August of that year he set sail for England, and reaching home in about two months after, resorted to his wife, who then lived, under the name of Miss Chudleigh, in Conduite street. She received him as her husband, and entertained him accordingly, as far as consisted with their plan of keeping the marriage secret. In the latter end of November, Mr. Hervey departed for the Mediterranean, but came back in the month of January, 1747, and remained in England until the following May. Meanwhile the lady continued to reside in Conduit-street, and he to visit her as usual, till some differences arose between them, which terminated in a downright quarrel, after which they never saw each other more.
The fruit of their intercourse was a son, born at Chelsea some time in 1747, who afterwards died. The secrecy which was observed relative to the marriage, occasioned this additional witness to be concealed with equal care ; Lord Thurlow observed on the lady's trial, that it made but an awkward part of the family and establishment of a maid of honour.
Various causes have been assigned for the discord which had arisen between the husband and wife. The long absence of the one, and the gaiety of the other, had given cause for suspicions, which could not tend much to establish domestic felicity. The Duke of