Saturday, August 27, 2011

The intriguing life of Mr. Evelyn Medows, late of 51 Charles Street, Berkeley Square, London

Evelyn Medows was born in about December 1736. By the time he married his second wife, Harriet Maria Norie in 1811, he was already 74 years old and had lived a colourful life. In 1776, four years before Harriet was born, Evelyn was a key player in one of the most famous British court cases: the trial of the Duchess of Kingston for bigamy. The Duchess remains a noted, or perhaps notorious historical figure, but of Mr. Medows, we don't hear quite so much. Here's what I have pieced together.

The first-born son of Lady Frances Pierrepont and Philip Medows, Deputy Ranger of Richmond Park, Evelyn would at first blush appear to have the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. Not quite.

Lady Frances and her only sibling, Evelyn Pierrepont, later the Duke of Kingston upon Hull, became orphans when she was a minor. An eligible young woman, she could have become very wealthy through a well-orchestrated marriage. The Duchess of Marlborough would have seen to this, but Lady Frances on the day of her 21st birthday went to the opera and stepped out at intermission for an elopement with Philip. Tsk, tsk, said her aunt, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, nee Pierrepont, in a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Lady Mary's own elopement is legendary.

So, no great fortune on either side of Evelyn's family, but enough social standing to get by on and enough money to live comfortably, it seems.

Young Evelyn at the age of 14, in 1751, became a page to the Duke of Cumberland.

Clip from The London Magazine and daily chronologer for 1751, courtesy Google Books

In 1755 (age 18), Evelyn Medows Esq. became an Ensign in the First Regiment of Foot Guards.

Clip from The London Magazine, or, Gentleman's monthly intelligencer, Vol. 24, 1755, courtesy Google Books

Somewhere in the next 20 years, young Evelyn seems to have lost his taste for the military life. There are references to him here and there as an "adventurer" who seems to have been as at home in France as in England. He may have been living it up secure in the knowledge that as the eldest nephew of the childless Duke of Kingston, he would inherit a great estate. After all, who wouldn't?

Even so, in 1760 Evelyn married Margaret Cramond, according to some sources but I have not verified this. In fact, I know very little about this marriage, but there is no mention anywhere of children, and Evelyn outlived Margaret, perhaps by many years. Or, she was just a tolerant wife. The way Evelyn is described in writing from the 1770s makes him sound very much the bachelor.

While Evelyn Medows was enjoying life, his uncle Evelyn Pierrepont was doing the same. We will next enter the stormy waters churned up by the so-called Duchess of Kingston.

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