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Romance of the House of Audley

British Isles Genealogy | Chapters From the Family Chest

     If the reader refers to the title of Lord Audley, in Collins', or Sharpe's, or Burke's ' Peerage,' he will see that George, eleventh Baron Audley, was raised by James I to the earldom of Castlehaven in Ireland. This nobleman had, by his marriage with the heiress of the Mervins, of Fonthill, in Wiltshire, a son named Mervin, twelfth Baron Audley, and second Earl of Castlehaven, who, unhappily, offended against the law so far that, being accused of sundry crimes, by virtue of a 'commission of oyer and terminer,' he was sentenced to death, and was executed on Tower Hill in 1631, when his title was forfeited to the Crown.
      His son John, however, had sufficient influence to obtain a reversal of the attainder, and to obtain a new patent of the earldom of Castlehaven. The family were zealous Roman Catholics. During the civil wars in Ireland he held a command under the Duke of Ormonde, and ultimately was chosen general of the forces which were enrolled to serve against Oliver Cromwell and the Parliamentarians. He married a daughter of the noble house of Chandos, and his brother Mervin, who succeeded to his honours, was fortunate enough to secure in marriage one of the fair daughters of John, Earl of Shrewsbury. The fourth earl allied himself in marriage with one of the Arundells of Wardour staunch Roman Catholics and Jacobites, like himself by whom he had two daughters. About this lady I have a little story to tell, which I think will interest my readers. The story shall be told almost wholly in the words of her brother-in-law:
     Lady Mary Touchet, a beautiful Englishwoman, made her first public appearance at a ball at Paris given by the Chevalier Charles Edward just before his expedition into Scotland in the year 1745. The prince, attracted not only by her personal charms, but also by the fact that she was the sister to an English Catholic peer, tools her as his partner in the dance; and before they parted he communicated to her whither he was going and the importance of his expedition . . . . I can easily conceive to what a pitch of enthusiasm a beautiful young Englishwoman, of the same religious principles with the prince, and so particularly honored by him at that time, might be worked up, and what she might be led to say upon so trying an occasion ; but, whatever it were, he instantly took his penknife from his pocket, ripped the star from his breast, and gave it her as a token of his particular regard; and I doubt not that she concluded such an external mark of his partiality, had lie succeeded in his enterprise, was given as a prelude to the offer of a more precious jewel which had lain under the star within his bosom.
     As that beautiful woman cued at the age of twenty, the star fell into the lap of her sister, and as she soon after fell into mine as my wife, I became possessed of that inestimable badge of distinction, together with a fine portrait of the prince, by Hussey. Being a Whig and a military man, I did not think it right to keep either of them in my possession, and a simple old Jacobite lady offered me a considerable sum of money for them ; but having three nieces, whose father had lived in intimacy with the late Sir John Dolben, I presented both to them, and I believe that valuable relic of the departed Prince Charles is now in the possession of Airs. Lloyd, my eldest niece, and wife to the present Dean of Norwich.'
     Thus far writes Captain Thicknesse. He adds:
     'Lady Mary Touchet was the first woman who appeared in England in a French dress, about the year 1748, which was then so particular, that she never went out at Bath, the place of her constant residence, without being followed by a crowd; for at that time the general dress of France was deemed so outr in this country that in most eyes it diminished the charms of both her face and person, to which she otherwise had the utmost claim. She danced on a Friday night ball, and died the Sunday following. A lady, who assisted in laying her out, told me she could scarcely believe she was dead, for that she never saw so much beauty in life, and that she exceeded in symmetry even Titian's Venus. It should be added that at her death Lady Mary Touchet had scarcely completed her twentieth year.

Chapters From the Family Chests, 1887

Chapters From the Family Chest

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