Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mary Bellenden: Spirited Courtesian and Remarkable Beauty

"Mary Campbell" by J. Heath (1798)

Mary Campbell (née Bellenden) of Mamore was born around 1685, the third daughter of John Bellenden, second Lord Bellenden, and Mary dowager countess of Dalhouise, who was the second daughter of Henry Moore, first earl of Drogheda. She was baptized in Edinburg on 4 May 1685. At the time of her birth the Bellenden family suffered from financial difficulties, which normally made socializing in aristocratic circles a challenging feat. Nevertheless, through her cousin, John Ker, first duke of Roxburge, Mary attracted the favor of his wife Mary Ker, the duchess of Roxburghe and found a place in the circles of aristocratic society. Through the recommendation of the duchess, Mary was selected as a maid of honor for Princess Caroline in 1715.

            As a young woman, Mary was considered “one of the most attractive women of her day” (Wilkins, 165). Horace Walpole held her in high esteem and stated, “Her face and person were charming… and so agreeable that she was never afterwards mentioned by her contemporaries but as the most perfect creature they had ever seen” (Ibid.) Not only did she gain recognition from the politicians but forged close friendships with poets John Gay and Alexander Pope. Pope and Gay feature her in their work, such as Gay’s “Damon and Cupid” and “Mr. Pope’s Welcome from Greece” and Pope’s “The Court Ballad."

Section of Gay's "Mr. Pope’s Welcome from Greece"
Part of "The Court Ballad" by Pope

Mary’s beauty and wit made her a perfect fit for the Hampton Court atmosphere of unbridled gaiety and talent the Prince and the Princess were determined to create (a sharp contrast to the dull court of George I). The unconventional court atmosphere allowed Caroline’s maids of honor to attend the Chapel Royal but some considered their presence a “disturbance.” Bishop Burnet to drew up a petition to have their gallery screened off in order to dissuade ogling admirers. Occasionally, Princess Caroline would ask Mary to “favour the company with a ballad” (Wilkins, 257), a request to which Mary readily obliged. Mary’s sister (or cousin), Margaret, attended court at the same time as Mary and was considered a more “pensive type of beauty” (Ibid, 165).

Renown for her charm, wit, and high spirits, Mary quickly gained the attention of male suitors in the court, including the Prince of Wales. Lord Hervey found Mary to be a remarkably engaging woman who possessed every necessary ingredient for attracting a lover but further remarked how she understood “the scandal of bing the Prince’s mistress without pleasure” and “resolved to withdraw her own neck as well as she could” (Hervey, 41). The matter of Mary’s relationship with the king remains unclear but most sources agree with Hervey’s assumption that Mary chose to avoid the Prince’s advances. In fact, it appears Mary had her heart set on Colonel John Campbell, the later Duke of Argyle, who was a Groom of the Bedchamber to Prince George and a Scottish Whig politician. Once the Prince discovered Mary’s affections lay elsewhere, he promised protection for Mary and her lover as long as she did not marry without the Prince’s knowledge. Skeptical of the Prince’s show of good faith, Mary wed John Campbell in secret in 1720. The Prince did not dismiss Campbell once he learned of their secret marriage, however, he continuously reproached Mary for her dishonesty.

Mary eventually left her position as Maid of Honor on 22 October 1720 while her new husband stayed on as a groom of the bedchamber. Eventually the couple moved to Combe Bank, Kent outside of London but Mary sorely missed her position at Hampton Court. In a letter to a fellow Maid of Honor, Mrs. Howard, in 1721 she lamented, “I wish we were all in the Swiss Cantons again” (Wilkins, 261). The “Swiss Cantons” refers to the nickname for the Palace rooms of Mrs. Howard. Nevertheless, Mary did not entirely disconnect from the court after her marriage. Caroline helped assist couple when they faced monetary difficulties after the death of Campbell’s father in 1729 and appointed Mary to the position of keeper of the palace of Somerset House. Throughout her marriage, Mary proved a supporting and doting wife even though she kept out of her husband’s politics and career in Parliament. The couple had one daughter, Caroline, who married Charles Buse, third earl of Ailesbury, and later Henry Seymour Conway, and five sons, including John Campbell, later the fifth duke of Argyle and Lord Frederick Campbell. Mary passed away in childbirth on 18 December 1736 and was buried five days later at St. Anne’s Soho, London.


John, Lord Hervey. Some materials towards memoirs of the reign of king George II. New York: AMS Press, Inc., 1970; 

Larsen, Ruth M.. “Campbell , Mary, of Mamore (bap. 1685, d. 1736).” Ruth M. Larsen In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman. Oxford: OUP, May 2005. (accessed March 19, 2015).

Quennell, Peter. Caroline of England: An Augustan Portrait. New York: Viking Press, 1940. 

Pope, Alexander. The Complete Poetical Works, ed. by Henry W. Boynton. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1903;, 2011.[59].html#. Accessed March 19, 2015. 

Pope, Alexander. The Works of Alexander Pope. London: C. a J. Rivington, 1824.

Wilkins, W. H., Caroline, the illustrious queen-consort of George II, and sometimes queen-regent; a study of her life and time. London: Longmans, Green, and co., 1901.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Daniel Burgess: Tutor, Secretary, and Committed Presbyterian

Daniel Burgess was born to the noted Presbyterian minister, Daniel Burgess, and his wife, the former Mrs. Briscoe. Details of his early life, including his date of birth and early education, remain unclear. Nevertheless, due to his father’s reputation as a famous preacher it is likely Burgess was trained for the ministry, especially since Burgess appears to have added his signature to the nonconformists’ advice for peace at Salters’ Hall on 10 March 1719. By the time of the signing, Burgess had long been in the service of the house of Hanover possibly as an English reader to Electress Sophia. Burgess was also well established financially by 1713 even though he only received £20 in his father’s will. His father justified this paltry inheritance by stating that his son had “already had and received his portion and share and much more than any of the rest of my children can or will have” (Kilburn). In September 1714, Burgess was chosen to be the tutor and secretary of Princess Caroline, a role Burgess took seriously and would retain until around 1724. He was appalled by the poor state of the Caroline’s English and blamed his predecessor, Miss Crow, for Caroline’s lack of progress.
            In 1715, Burgess potentially authored the propaganda pamphlet, A letter to the bishop of Salisbury, occasion'd by his son's letter to the earl of Hallifax, by a good friend to the late ministers. At the time of publication, King George I’s coronation had caused a massive outbreak of “coronation riots,” which included the Sacheverell Riots, across England and led to the impeding impeachment of the earl of Oxford. The pamphlet strove to distinguish between the actions of the Sacheverellite mob and the earl and argued that the Treaty of Urtecht had guaranteed the protestant ascension King George. Due to the position of Burgess as secretary to the Princess of Wales, the propaganda could demonstrate a growing distance between the king and the Prince and Princess of Wales.
            One of the biggest moves of Burgess’s career occurred in 1713 when he managed to secure an annual £500 grant made from an allowance out of the Treasury for the widows of dissenting ministers. After discussing the notion with Charles, Viscount Townsend, the proposal made its way to Walpole and eventually the king who all agreed to accept. The grant was regularly transferred through Burgess to a secret committee made up of men such as Mr. William Tong, Mr. Jeremy Smith, Mr. Merril of Hampstead, Mr. Thomas Reynolds, Mr. Matthew Clarke, Dr. Joshua Oldfield, Mr. John Evans, Mr. William Harries, and Edmund Calamy, who in turn transferred the money to the widows or poor ministers. Walpole and subsequent governments used the award to their advantage by exerting influence over Presbyterian ministers who held seats they found hard to win come election. In at least one election, 1733, Burgess used his personal influence over Presbyterian congregations in favor of Walpole’s interests.
            By 1727, Burgess had become a pensioner of Princess Caroline. He remained in London in 1733, staying in an apartment in Somerset House, and was a shareholder of the fire office in Bristol. On 11 February 1747, Burgess the younger passed away and left behind one known daughter, Katherine. Little is known of the wife of Burgess except that she was potentially the sister of a Sarah Morris who received £10 in his will. Upon his death, Burgess left around £1450: £200 in legacies that went to his family and members of the household and the remaining £1250 in various stocks.  


Calamy, Edmund. An historical account of my own life, with some reflections on the times that I lived. London: H. Colburn and R. Bentley, 1829.

'House of Lords Journal Volume 20: 2 August 1715,' in Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 20, 1714-1717 (London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1767-1830), 136-144, accessed March 10, 2015,

Kilburn, Matthew. “Burgess, Daniel (d. 1747).” Matthew Kilburn In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman, October 2009. (accessed March 13, 2015).

Monod, Paul Kleber. Jacobitism and the English People. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Samuel Molyneux: Secretary and Enthusiast of the Stars

Samuel Molyneux (Molyneax) was born on 18 July 1689 at Chester, England. Molyneux was the third and, unfortunately, only surviving child of William Molyneux, noted experimental philosopher and his wife, Lucy, the youngest daughter of the attorney general for Ireland, Sir William Domville. Although his mother and father were Irish, they left Ireland in 1689 after the deposition of Roman Catholic James II. The Protestant family would not return until 1690. Since 1692, Molyneux’s father had maintained a friendship and correspondence with John Locke. It is no surprise that Molyneux’s early education was based on Lockean principles of education, which emphasized the parental role of instilling the virtues of reason and self-denial in their children early in life. His father played an important role in his son’s education until his death in 1698. After the death of his father, Molyneux was passed into the care of his uncle, Dr. Thomas Molyneux, who was a physician and natural philosopher. At sixteen, Molyneux registered at Trinity College, Dublin, where he befriended mathematician George Berkeley. The relationship between the two men was one of great esteem and Berkeley dedicated his Miscellanea mathematica to Molyneux when it was published in 1707. Molyneux graduated Trinity College BA the following year, 1708, and MA in 1710.
            The death of his father left Molyneux the sole inheritor of his estate at Castle Dillon in County Armagh, Ireland. After leaving the university in 1710, Molyneux spent two years making improvements to the estate. After leaving his Irish estate in 1712, Molyneux traveled to England where he was inducted into the Royal Society of London on 12 January. During the winter of 1712-1713, Molyneux found himself in Antwerp where he became acquainted with the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. The young man must have made a favorable impression on the Duke for the Duke sent him on a diplomatic mission to Hanover, where he arrives sometime before 1714. Molyneux was in Hanover in time to witness the sudden death of Electress Sophia on 8 July 1714, which effectively made her son George Ludwig heir to the throne of the United Kingdom. After the death of Queen Anne in 1714, Molyneux accompanied the new royal family to London. Upon the coronation of George I Molyneux was made the secretary to the Prince of Wales, a position he would retain until George II’s ascension to the throne in 1727.
            Secretary to the Prince of Wales was not Molyneux’s only role. He was elected to represent Bossiney and St. Mawes in London Parliament in 1715. In 1717, Molyneux married Lady Elizabeth Capel, the eldest daughter of the Earl of Essex. Lady Elizabeth brought a £10,000 fortune to the marriage and a further £18,000 in 1721 when she inherited the Kew House from her great-uncle’s widow. Molyneux could now consider himself a wealthy man even though the couple would not have any children. The Prince of Wales, Frederick, would develop an interest in the Kew House and take a long lease of it in 1730, two years after Molyneux’s death. The house was eventually demolished in 1804.
            Following the interests of his father and his uncle, Molyneux developed a curiosity for optics and astronomy. He became acquainted with James Bradley, another fellow of the Royal Society, who was a professional astronomer and Savilian chair of astronomy at Oxford. From 1723 to 1725, the pair experimented in creating innovative designs for reflective telescopes with the aim of creating a relatively inexpensive telescope that could be accessible to a wide range of people. Unfortunately, this did not quite work out as hoped. Molyneux and Bradley’s first successful design for a reflective telescope was completed in May 1724 and was of 26 inches focus. Eventually the pair created a design of eight feet. Molyneux would go on to present his method of speculum design to Edward Scarlett, the optician of John V, king of Portugal, and George Hearne, a London manufacturing of mathematical instruments. Doing so helped bring reflective telescopes into general circulation.
            The best-known work of Molyneux and Bradley was their attempt to replicate the work of Robert Hooke and measure the parallax of the Gamma Draconis star. They set up the experiment using a zenith sector built by George Graham, a noted instrument maker, in the observatory Molyneux built in the Kew House on 26 November 1725. Their experiment did not confirm Hooke’s work but did lead to Bradley’s later discovery of the aberration of light. Molyneux had been serving on the Privy Council in England and Ireland by this time and had represented Bossiney and St. Mawes and the city of Exeter in English Parliaments in 1715, 1726, and 1727. He returned to the Parliament in Ireland in 1727 representing the University of Dublin. Once he was appointed as one of the lords of the Admiralty on 27 July 1727, he could no longer devote his assistance to Bradley and his experiments.
             Molyneux passed away on 13 April 1728 a few days after having an attack in the House of Commons by a disease possibly inherited by his mother. He had been under major stress after receiving adamant opposition from his fellows over his proposals for improvements to the navy, which could have contributed to his sudden death. Dr. Robert Smith came into possession of Molyneux’s optic papers shortly before his death and took on the task of completing a book on optics. The work, A Compleat System of Opticks, was published in 1738 and included a chapter written by Molyneux on the grinding and polishing of telescope lenses and another chapter begun by Molyneux on the casting and polishing of telescope mirrors. Upon his death, Molyneux left a widow, who remarried in 1730, and around 700 instruments, which were mostly astronomical.  


Clerke, A. M. “Molyneux, Samuel (1689–1728).” Rev. Anita McConnell. In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman, (accessed March 12, 2015).

John Locke, The Works of John Locke in Nine Volumes, (London: Rivington, 1824 12th ed.). Vol. 8. [Online] available from; accessed 3/11/2015; Internet.

“List of the Fellows of the Royal Society 1660-2007.” PDF file. The Royal Society Library and Information Services. Accessed March 12, 2015.

Loudon, John Claudius.  An Encyclopædia of Gardening. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1860.

O’Connor, J.J. and E.F. Robertson. “Samuel Molyneux.” The MacTutor History of Mathematics archives. Last modified December, 2008.

O'Hara, James G.. “Molyneux, William (1656–1698).” James G. O'Hara In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman, January 2008. (accessed March 12, 2015).