|Portrait of the Lady Scarborough|
Frances Lumley-Saunderson was born around the year 1700 as the second daughter of the first earl of Orkney, George Hamilton, and his wife Elizabeth (who was a possible mistress of William III). There are no records of her early education, which implies she received her education from home. Remaining at home also brought her directly into the realm of British politics and court life due to the important positions her parents held in the court of William III, Queen Anne, and King George I. It is possible this is where she met her husband, Thomas Lumley-Saunderson, the son of Richard Lumley, earl of Scarborough, whom she married on 27 June 1724. The hyphenated surname occurred after Lumley inherited the estates of his cousin, James Saunderson, earl of Castleton, upon his death in 1723. In 1740, Lumley succeeded his brother Richard, who died childless, and became the third earl of Scarborough, an honor that extended to his wife. Lord Scarborough served as an envoy to Portugal between 1722 and 1725 and in 1724, threw a lavish party in honor of the birthday of the Prince of Wales, the future George II. The party included, “foreign Ministers, nobility of Portugal and other persons of distinction… there was a concert of vocal and instrumental music, at which were a great appearance of ladies…” (Milner, 181). This ball that went on until morning is a fine example of the earl’s extravagant spending habits that would leave Lady Scarborough scrambling after his death.
Despite the enormous party thrown for the future George II, Scarborough eventually sided with Frederick, Prince of Wales. His close connections with the prince can be seen by Scarborough’s appointment as treasurer of Frederick’s household in 1738, a post he held until Frederick’s death in 1751, and his wife’s appointment to Lady of the Bedchamber for Princess Augusta in 1745. Yet, it appears that Lady Frances’s family had closer ties to Frederick and Augusta than Lord Scarborough’s. As previously noted, Lady Scarborough’s parents had been close with George I. Lady Frances also has a legal connection with the royal family when Frances’s sister, Anne, whose husbands became a member of Frederick’s household in 1744, had allowed Frederick to lease her home at Cliveden.
Unfortunately, Lady Scarborough’s connections to the Prince of Wales ceased to matter after his death in 1751. Not only did Lord and Lady Scarborough lose favor, they lost opportunities for their children, three daughters and two sons, as well. As shown, Scarborough was a spendthrift whose habits did not help the family’s situation after the death of Frederick. Scarborough lost money during the South Sea Bubble in the 1740s but was also shafted in his brother’s will and only received a lump sum of £20,000. The youngest brother, James, received the Durham and Sussex Lumley estates and an annual income of £6,000. Scarborough died in 1752 and left his family to struggle.
Lady Scarborough understood the importance of royal patronage in order to provide a stable future and good marriages for her daughters, Anne (Lady of the Bedchamber for Princess Amelia) and Frances. His husband’s connection with Frederick put her at a distinct disadvantage with the king and decided the best way to regain favor was through her son-in-law, Peter Ludlow, who married Frances in 1753. Ludlow had been a supporter of the king and his ministers, which would place him on the king’s good side. Immediately after Ludlow’s marriage to her daughter, Lady Scarborough began requesting Ludlow be promoted to an Irish earldom. Her appeals mostly affected Thomas Pelham-Holmes, the duke of Newcastle, to whom she sent approximately nineteen letters all of which concerned Ludlow’s lack of title. In one letter dated 29 June 1754, she thanks Newcastle for his previous letter in which he implied she would soon see the accomplishment of her desire. She ends her grateful letter with the endorsement, “Hopes it won’t be long before some Irish peers are created” (Milner, 183). In social contexts, she chose to ignore her husband’s connection with Frederick and painted the late Lord Scarborough as a man of unwavering loyalty to the crown. Lady Scarborough’s constant pestering for Ludlow’s appointment was what appeared to be the best way to reinforce the family’s reputation. The rank of the husband would extend to the wife and then the entire Scarborough family. While she appeared to be only helping her son-in-law and ignoring the status of her daughters, in reality Lady Scarborough’s campaign for Ludlow would retrieve status for her daughters as well as the Scarborough family name.
When Ludlow was elevated to an Irish barony in 1755, Lady Scarborough was not satisfied. In another letter to Newcastle in January on 1758 she writes, “I all along declined accepting of his being made a baron only, as that I think has not been refused to almost anybody that has asked for it” (Namier, 62). In her eyes, and the eyes of Princess Amelia, the title of Irish baroness resulted in a loss of status for her daughter. In that same letter, Lady Scarborough recounts how the Princess asked her, “why [she] would let her [daughter] loose her rank,” to which Lady Scarborough responded that “the Duke of Newcastle could best have answer’d that question” (Milner, 187). Two years later on 3 October 1760, Ludlow was finally made an Irish earl.
After this major accomplishment, Lady Scarborough appears to have withdrawn herself from political and court life and she passed away on 27 December 1772. Her will bequeathed a fortune of £8,000 to 9,000 and requested her final resting place be with her husband in Saxby church, Lincolnshire. Her intimate knowledge of British politics and patronage that she gained from an early age helped her navigate the patronage system and her incessant straightforwardness eventually allowed her to get what she wanted. Lady Scarborough is another example of a strong-willed eighteenth century aristocratic woman who was not afraid to fight for what she believed was due to her.
Brooke, John and Lewis Bernstein Namier. The House of Commons: 1754-1790. London: Boydell and Brewer, 1985. https://books.google.com/books?id=Taw7DVGrbRcC&dq=Ludlow,+Peter,+1st+Earl+Ludlow&source=gbs_navlinks_s.
Chalus, E. H.. “Saunderson, Frances Lumley- , countess of Scarbrough (c.1700–1772).” E. H. Chalus 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. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/68364 (accessed May 31, 2015).
Collins, Arthur. The peerage of England: containing a genealogical and historical account of all the peers of England. 4th edn, 7 vols. London: H. Woodfall, 1768. https://books.google.com/books?id=uWZUAAAAcAAJ&vq=Scarbrough&dq=Frances+Lady+Scarborough+Princess+Augusta&source=gbs_navlinks_s.
Milner, Edith. Records of the Lumleys of Lumley Castle. London: George Bell, 1904. https://books.google.com/books?id=1NMKAAAAYAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s.