Regency Era Road Rage

Lieutenant-General Sir Charles William Doyle (1770 – 1842) was an excellent example of the brave and intrepid British soldier during the Regency period. He rose through the ranks during the Napoleonic Wars to become a heroic commander and Knight Bachelor.

Sir Charles’ portrait executed by Margaret Sarah Carpenter, a well-established portrait painter during the Regency era.

His military exploits included:

  • establishing a redoubt under fire above a besieged city
  • narrowly escaping capture in the company of the Duke of York
  • driving off a French privateer whilst in an open boat of 30 soldiers in the West Indies
  • conducting espionage despite severe injuries during the Battle of Alexandria
  • endearing himself to various Spanish juntas who made him their own lieutenant-general.

He excelled in restoring order to demoralized troops. He served the Prince Regent as an  aide-de-camp. Two horses were shot out from under him during action in the Peninsular War.

Battle of Alexandria by de Loutherbourg (1801)
Sir Charles was there.

According to a story recounted in The Spirit of the Public Journals by Stephen Jones (1825) —  it was action outside London that nearly laid the hero low–under the generalship of a female, no less.

Sir Charles had just come from a military review held on Hounslow Heath. He had put aside his military garb for civilian clothes to drive back to London. At the village of Brentford, he stopped to allow a line of buggies turning off the road ahead. While he waited, something bumped him in the back. Turning ’round, he was confronted by the two lead horses pulling a post-chaise-and-four.

 

Denis Dighton’s Review at Hounslow Heath via UK Royal Collection Trust
It was the thing to do back then.

 

He shouted at the post-boy riding one of the leaders, pointing out he couldn’t very well run over the buggy in front of him. The lad’s master, mounted on a wheeler, ignored this and urged the horses forward until they threatened to turn the general’s tilbury over. After much jostling and remonstrations, the post-chaise gave the small carriage the “go-by” and raced away.

Urged by on-lookers to pursue the miscreants, the general drove his horse to overtake them in Hammersmith, where the chaise had stopped to water the horses. When Sir Charles confronted the post-boys, demanding their address, the chaise’s fair passenger appeared at the window, cursing.

“By G___d, they shall neither apologize nor give their address; and if (he) wants any thing else, let him follow me to Curzon-street, and I’ll horsewhip him myself! Drive on, lads!”

Smithfield in London, witness to many executions, still has its horse trough.
photo via geograph.org.uk – Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

She ordered the chaise to depart, leaving the general at a stand-still, his horse exhausted and the tilbury a little worse for the wear. A bystander’s horse was pressed into service for Sir Charles to mount and continue the pursuit. He followed the chaise all the way to Hyde Park, but stopped short when the four-in-hand passed through the Kensington Gate at a full gallop.

Sir Charles did not dare follow. Strongly conscious of his dignity and his reputation, he would not allow himself to become a spectacle for the ton’s entertainment.

“He afterwards ascertained that the lady was a Mrs. Stopford, living under the ‘protection’ (!) of somebody or other in Curzon-Street.”

The post-boys were thus identified and brought to justice before the magistrate the next day. As for the courtesan, she was never troubled by prosecution.

That is what it means to live under another’s protection.

One outrider for the Queen – Trooping the Color in 2007
photo via wikicommons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

 

 

 

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Regency Brothers – The Soldier

Richard, the second oldest brother, was a military man for most of his adult life.

“Well, to own the truth, I’ve never cared for military life above half,” confided Endymion. “But the thing is, Cousin Alverstoke will very likely cut off my allowance, if I sell out, and then, you know, we shall find ourselves obliged to bite on the bridle. Should you object to being a trifle cucumberish? Though I daresay if I took up farming, or breeding horses, or something of that nature, we should find ourselves full of juice.”

another old cover of a marvelous Regency

another old cover of a marvelous Regency

I?” she exclaimed. “Oh, no, indeed! Why, I’ve been cucumberish, as you call it, all my life! But for you it is a different matter! You must not ruin yourself for my sake.”

“It won’t be as bad as that,” he assured her. “My fortune ain’t handsome, but I wasn’t born without a shirt. And if I was to sell out, my cousin couldn’t have me sent abroad.”

“But could he do so now?” she asked anxiously. “Harry says the Life Guards never go abroad, except in time of war.”

Frederica by Georgette Heyer

Endymion was the cousin and heir to the Marquis of Alverstoke, the elegant peer who amused us earlier with his sally about a Baluchistan hound in Regency Dogs. His heir is a young man who feels he is ill-used, despite having a commission in the army purchased for him.

Richard Martin’s family could never hope to have the money to purchase a commission for him. Moreover, he was not well-placed to become a member of the romantic Life Guards Heyer wrote much about:

With white crests and horses’ manes flying, the Life Guards came up at full gallop and crashed upon the cuirassiers in flank. The earth seemed to shudder beneath the shock. The Hyde Park soldiers never drew rein, but swept the cuirassiers from the bank, and across the hollow road in the irresistible impetus of their charge.

An Infamous Army: A Novel of Love, War, Wellington and Waterloo by Georgette Heyer

Richard settled in the enlisted ranks of the First Foot Guards. His regiment was not as prestigious as the Life, but it performed with the greatest distinction in the Peninsular War, as reported in the Grenadier Guards website:

Sir John Moore - "you know I always wished to die this way."

Sir John Moore – “you know I always wished to die this way.”

In the autumn and winter of 1808 they took part in Sir John Moore’s classic march and counter-march against Napoleon in Northern Spain and, when under the terrible hardships encountered on the retreat across the wild Galician mountains the tattered, footsore troops, tested almost beyond endurance, showed signs of collapse, the 1st Foot Guards, with their splendid marching discipline, lost fewer men by sickness and desertion than any other unit in the Army.

Subsequently they took part in the battle of Corunna and when Sir John Moore fell mortally wounded in the hour of victory it was men of the 1st Foot Guards who bore him, dying, from the field.

The Grenadiers got their name when they defeated the Grenadiers of the French Imperial Guard, the best and brightest of Napoleon’s troops, flung as a last-ditch effort into the fray at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Back in England, Richard retired and published a volume of poetry and some pamphlets. His only daughter made what was considered a brilliant marriage, bringing the Keeper of Printed Books of the British Museum up to scratch.

We don’t know much beyond that, besides John’s bitter account that Richard was always applying to him for money.

This must have come as a severe disappointment. When he was in the army, Richard had risen through the ranks to become Quartermaster Sargeant, a non-commissioned officer. It was largely a ceremonious position, but John was confounded as to why his brother had been appointed to watch over the Government’s assets when he could scarcely keep track of his own.