Finsthwaite Princess Page 4
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The Finsthwaite Princess - page 4
Copywrite - Janet D Martin & Transactions of the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society - 2001
| "The proverbial oldest inhabitants", she wrote, "remember their fore-elders always speaking of her as 'the Princess' and that she as a young woman came somewhere about 1745, with two servants and resided in extreme privacy as a sort of lodger at this lonely Waterside farm, which has, however, in former days boasted more importance as a residence than it possesses at present". She was answered by Andrew Lang, who had previously interested himself in Clementina Douglas but had come to the sensible conclusion that she was "either a harmless enthusiast, or a member, perhaps illegitimate, of a Jacobite family. Among such houses Clementina was a popular name for girls." 22
Miss Wakefield also reported another story, not recorded by Richard Pedder, to the effect that shortly after the Princess died a stranger came and planted on her grave a solitary Scottish thistle. "Finsthwaite Churchyard", she said, "bristles with Scotch thistles, and the particular sort of thistle does not grow in the neighbourhood". In 1899 H S Cowper wrote that he was "credibly assured that the thistles which abound in the churchyard were planted by a recent vicar".23 A century has since passed and the thistles are long gone.
Miss Wakefield obliquely raised the question of Clementina Douglas's connection with the Young Pretender by remarking that, "Prince Charlie was in Kendal some nine miles form Finsthwaite on 22nd November, 1745 and stayed over Sunday the 24th, accompanied by three ladies, one of whom was the 'Lady Ogylvie'. Could the mysterious lady of Finsthwaite have been one of them? She did not suggest that Clementina was Charles's daughter. That idea had evidently already occurred to Andrew Lang but he pointed out that if she had come to Finsthwaite as a young woman about 1745 then Charles could not possibly have been her father as he himself was then only twenty-five. Someone must have started this particular hare bit it clearly did not form part of the local tradition. Nor did the date of 1745, though it has since become gospel.
Although the Prince was often rumoured to have had more than one child by his mistress Clementina Walkingshaw and Jacobite history is strewn with such theories, it is generally accepted by serious historians that their (and his) only child was Charlotte, later Duchess of Albany, born in 1753 as Charles himself attested in James III's secretary in 1760 in which he said..... "before 1745 I lived in London, was between then and 1747 undone" and went on to speak of "an obstacle in the way, which has done him (the Prince) no service, and me great hurt".24 Some commentators have taken this to refer to the birth of a child to her, but if so it can hardly have been the Prince's. In any case, it seems impossible that the daughter of the Pretender could have been hidden from the British government in the eighteenth century.
Again the Price's surname was adduced as a kind of proof of her origin, as Charles Edward was known to have used the name Douglas as an alias on his clandestine visits to London after the failure of the '45. Andrew Lang says the name was not used before 1744; others suggest 1750 or 1753.25 As we do not know when Clementina Douglas came to Finsthwaite, and given the existence of James Douglas, the question of the surname seems irrelevant.
In 1913 Canon Charles Gale Townley of Townhead, Staveley in Cartmel, interested himself in the Princess, perhaps because his family owned an example of the medallion struck to celebrate the marriage in 1719 of James III, the Old Pretender, and Princess Maria Clementina Sobieski of Poland. The medal is variously said to have come into the family as a gift or bequest from the Finsthwaite Princess herself to her friend Jane Penny, whose elder sister Mary married Colonel Richard Townley of Belfield, Rochdale, in 1765. Canon Townley stated in 1914, in the earliest version of his article on the Princess, that he had no idea of how the medallion had come into the family. However, Jane Penny and her sister inherited Jolliver Tree on the death of James Backhouse in 1762, as the next heirs of his wife. James had only a life interest in it after his wife died in 1744. It is there for possible that Jane Penny did know the Princess if she lodged with Mr Backhouse.
Later versions of the medallion's part in the story have asserted that both the Backhouses and the Taylor's were Roman Catholic, and therefore sympathetic to the Jacobite cause. 26 They emphatically were not. James Backhouse was one of the chief movers in the establishment of the church at Finsthwaite in 1724; all his children were baptised there, and he and his wife were buried there. Edward Taylor of Waterside was likewise a member of the Church of England.
Canon Townley also drew into the story the name of Dr William King (1684-1763) principal of St Mary's Hall, Oxford, and an undoubted Jacobite sympathiser for a great part of his life. Snatching at a coincidence if surnames, he argued that Dr King had arranged for Clementina Douglas to be hidden away in Finsthwaite through the good offices of his "kinsman.... (who) .....married Miss Taylor, the heiress of Finsthwaite House". "Everything", he continued, "points to Dr King having arranged with his kinsman for the unfortunate Princess being secretly brought from Scotland and placed with his wife's relatives, first at July Flower Tree,27 where she remained until the death of Mr James Backhouse, Mrs King's Brother-in-Law, its owner; and then at Waterside, with Mrs King's brother - Mr Edward Taylor".
None of this bears up under serious examination. It is true that Isabel Taylor, sister of Edward (1731-90) married a James King of Liverpool at Cartmel in 1751. He was a naval surgeon; in 1751 he was thirty five years old, and had lately served in HMS Loo. He died in 178228 and their son James inherited Finsthwaite House form his uncle in 1790. But James King was no connection of Dr William King.29 James Backhouse was not Mrs King's brother-in-law. His wife Mary was indeed born a Taylor but not of the same family as the Finsthwaite House Tailors'. 30 Nor was Edward Taylor of Waterside Mrs King's brother-in-law, he was her uncle.
Clementina Douglas's possible connection with Jolliver Tree, to which I shall return later, led Canon Townley to make a further suggestion. At the end of his article he wrote: "The two houses in which the Princess lived, differ in this respect from others in the district, in that in both is to be found oak panelling, by contrast (sic) to their having been prepared for the reception of some highly placed person". Jolliver Tree was built by Mary Backhouse about 1730; the oak panelling is original and not inserted. At Waterside there is deal, not oak, panelling on the first floor where the leased rooms were, but again the suggestion that the existence of panelling argues an important inhabitant is deeply flawed. In this instance it was probably installed when the house was extended upwards into a third storey by the then owner, Richard Robinson, in the 1730's. It seems extraordinary that Canon Townley, whose knowledge of the district was so extensive, should not have noticed quite ordinary farmhouses frequently have panelled rooms.
Tom Cross, in his pamphlet A Lakeland Princess (1945, repr. 1955), went a step further into fantasy. He pointed out, quite rightly, that at Waterside there is a moulded plaster over mantel with two sets of initials which he rendered as RTH 1676 and CRA. 'RTH', he wrote, "are no doubt Taylor initials - as both Finsthwaite House and Waterside House housed many generations of the Taylor family. CRA probably stand for Charles, Roi Angleterre (sic)".
The solution is more prosaic.
Such inscriptions commonly commemorate a husband and wife, in this case Christopher and Agnes Robinson. RTH, which is in fact RTA, are the initials of Richard Taylor of Waterside (d. 1706) and his second wife Ann (d. 1712). His daughter and only child Agnes (d. 1700) married a Kendal joiner, Christopher Robinson (d. 1690) at Witherslack in January 1676. Her father added an extension to his house for Christopher and Ann, consisting of two rooms, one above another. The overmantel is above the ground floor fireplace and dates both the marriage and the extension.