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Chapter 7
This webpage reproduces part of
A Late Stuart Pretender

by George Sherburn

published by
The University of Chicago Press

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 9

 p75  Chapter Eight

Early Aftermath

Roehenstart before 1816 — perhaps even before going to Russia — habitually had lived a wandering life. After 1816 this love of travel operated increasingly. For a while there were almost annual journeys from Dresden or Baden to Italy — most frequently to Naples. There were also the longer journeys, one to America and several to the Levant. By preference he liked to live in Italy, but he also spent a considerable amount of time in Paris. During most of 1819 he was the paid cicerone of two young gentlemen, named Dirck and Alewyn, who wished to "do" the Levant. This voyage ended disastrously if one may believe a long letter that Roehenstart sent to his chère grand maman, the Countess of Albany, early in 1820. The voyage had not been so profitable financially as Roehenstart had hoped, but by the same "cruel fatality which has not ceased to afflict our family" he was shipwrecked on his return in Mount's Bay. A part of his letter demands quotation:

I had the bad luck to be shipwrecked in the month of December last on the coast of Cornwall, in Mount's Bay. All my possessions were the booty of the waves, and I owe my life to Providence, which in this great danger gave me sufficient presence of mind to save myself by swimming. I shall add with satisfaction that I had the good fortune to save two of my companions in disaster. Having got ashore, exhausted from fatigue and cold, I was forced to undergo a long quarantine, because my ship came from Smyrna, and the excessive expenses have entirely used up the small resources remaining to me. But I ought not to fatigue you, my dear mother, with details of my debts: they are, alas, in a truly bad way.

One has to suspect his story for reasons perhaps trivial. He had saved himself and two companions, but no possessions. But preserved among his papers there is an account book for the voyage with day by day  p76 listings from February 15 to October 1, 1819, of every smallest expense — and the book shows no sign of ever having been wet. Possibly he drew it up during his tedious quarantine, but it purports to be a day-by‑day record made in the various spots where money was disbursed by himself or his two charges. He came ashore, he says, with no possessions; but he complains bitterly of the treatment received from customs officers — who would hardly be levying duties on properties at the bottom of Mount's Bay. It is quite possible that the shipwreck was invented to arouse pity and secure a loan from his chère grand maman. He carried his protests against the customs officers straight to headquarters, and Lord Chetwynd promised to investigate the officers at Marazion. An unidentified friend, H. F. Nashe, in August wrote to Roehenstart about the death of a "mutual friend," who may have been a fellow voyager. Nashe is not inclined to suspect the physician of causing the death, but he is suspicious as to the disappearance of a letter of credit — which must have come ashore by swimming!

Another passage in this "shipwreck" letter, less picturesque but more vital announces Roehenstart's marriage:

It is, however, my duty finally to break this cruel silence in order to inform you of my marriage with an Italian lady, brought up in Paris, of the Barbuonei1 family. This house, though not rich, is distinguished and is of a rather ancient nobility. My wife is forever speaking to me of the pleasure she would feel in having the honor of being presented to you. . . . I am sure she would study to win your favor.

This passage is the only mention of his first wife preserved in these papers, except for the original of a certificate showing that on July 20, 1821, Maria Antoinetta Sophia Countess of Roehenstart, aged thirty‑one, was buried in the Parish of St. Mary-le‑Bone, in the County of Middlesex. One is inclined to suppose that Roehenstart left Naples in the winter of 1817‑18 for Genoa because of his interest in this lady, whom he at about this time married. For the year 1818 there is almost a total lack of papers in his collection, and one trusts that this fact indicates that the young couple were too happy to bother about keeping records of their happiness. During 1819, when voyaging in the Levant he kept no copies of letters that he might have written to his wife. In 1821 within a week after his countess was buried he started posthaste on a journey to Turin or Milan, evidently to take the news of the death,  p77 and settle some financial matters attendant upon it. He was back in England in a fortnight.

The letter announcing this marriage was sent to the Countess of Albany, possibly his only recognized relative. When in 1824 she in turn died, the obituary notices gave Roehenstart some reason to insist that she was the second wife of Prince Charles, the first having been his grandmother the Countess of Albestroff. As he ceased to have hopes of favors from George IV, Roehenstart was increasingly watchful of mentions of the Jacobite Stuarts in the public press. As early as 1816 when John Stanier Clarke's Life of James II appeared, with a statement that it was based "on the Stuart Papers at Carlton House," Roehenstart wrote, and perhaps somewhere published, an adverse comment in which he insisted, with no justification, that the papers at Carlton House (which had been purchased from Abbé Waters, the major domo of Charlotte Stuart) were unauthentic, since the original papers and manuscripts had been removed and secured before Mr. de l'Eau (as he calls Waters) had any access to the library in Florence. The passage is typical of Roehenstart's methods of rewriting history to fit his purposes. Among his papers there is an account, not written by him, but sent to him from Rome, of the purchase of the second (Rome) lot of Stuart papers, as managed in part by Dr. Robert Watson. His longest historical effort, written to "correct" the obituary of the Countess of Albany, was printed in the New Times, March 18, 1824.

Either the editor, Sir John Stoddart, or a subordinate, corrupted one of Roehenstart's sentences to read, "Prince Charles Edward . . . was first married to the Princess of Stolberg." This mistake called forth immediate protest from one of Roehenstart's friends. Roehenstart never signed his name to any of these contributions. His story in the New Times was signed "A Friend to Unfortunate Princes." In this article he gives the following account of himself, without giving his own name. He says the Duchess of Albany

. . . had married a Nobleman, descending in a direct line from the Earl of Darnley, husband of Mary, Queen of Scotland: his being a Protestant was the reason for keeping their marriage secret; the Dutchess was afraid of irritating her father; but when she had a son, the marriage could be no longer concealed: she obtained her father's pardon, and Prince Charles Edward gave his name to his grandson.

This Representative of the Stuarts, whom I perfectly know, has been the sport of that cruel Fortune which weighed with an iron hand upon his family, and though still in the prime of life, has, for the last twelve years, met with  p78 such a variety of complicated misfortunes, that if related, they would appear almost incredible. — In poverty and seclusion he supports his situation with a fortitude worthy of a better fate.

One had best regard much of what Roehenstart says about the "last" Stuarts as "almost incredible." He ennobles the Walkinshaws, makes Charlotte Stuart born in wedlock, and here has possibly invented a new father for himself, descended from Darnley — though later he decided that his ancestor was not Darnley but Darnley's uncle James Moray Stuart.

His attitude towards the Countess of Albany had grown more hostile as time went on. At first she had seemed helpful, and one wonders if briefly she had shown flirtatious feelings towards Roehenstart. In some quarters raised eyebrows were seen. As late as 1839, when the Countess was long dead, there was gossip, and Roehenstart commented to Mrs. Hamilton of Kames Castle on "appalling rumors":

Have you by any chance discovered who is the Lady who communicated that appalling intelligence respecting me? It is so preposterously absurd that I feel no one who knows me can for a moment entertain a shadow of a doubt of its falsehood. — My step grandmother was certainly a very bad woman, a disgrace to our name, but notwithstanding the numerous proofs of her hatred towards me, I could scarcely have believed her capable of aspersions of this nature.

There was genuine friendliness on neither side of the relationship between Roehenstart and his chère grand maman.

It will be recalled that Roehenstart's first wife died in 1821. At the end of 1826 he married a second time. The lady was Louisa Constance, daughter of the late Bouchier Smith, Esq. The father had been a close friend of the Earl of Coventry; he had apparently died in Coventry House in 1822. Constance was probably a cousin of Mrs. Fitzherbert, "wife of George IV." Roehenstart may have been introduced to Mrs. Smith and her daughter by Count Gabriel de Sampigny, whom Roehenstart had met in America, and whose path several times crossed that of Roehenstart. Sampigny wrote to Roehenstart on September 15, 1823, about the Smiths:

Mrs. Bouchier Smith is the lady to whom you had the kindness to bring a letter for me last year, she has become a widow and thinks to settle in France. I am excessively fond of her although we haven't seen each other for more than 25 years, and I am well requited, which is a proof that we both are lovers by nature.

 p79  The lady, as Sampigny also wrote, pressingly invited him to come to England for a visit to her and her daughter; but when this was written Roehenstart already knew that there were legal difficulties (involving a large sum of money) looming between the Smiths (or Smythes) and the Sampignys. It was alleged and denied that a lady of the Sampigny family had paid a considerable sum of money to a Mr. Walther Smythe, which it was desired to recover. The Smith story was that the money had never been received. Out of this disagreeable situation (or some other) there arose a strong animosity on the part of Roehenstart towards his former friend.

Roehenstart's courtship need not have been hasty, but the marriage, which took place at St. Pancras's on December 13, 1826, may well have been almost an elopement. One suspects that someone, very likely Sampigny, had prejudiced the mother against the match. At any rate a few days after the ceremony, Mrs. Stuart (as Roehenstart's second wife called herself) wrote from Richmond a heartbroken letter begging for her mother's forgiveness — and a reconciliation. There was a suspicion that Roehenstart had financial advantage in mind in this match, and Constance takes pains to reassure her mother on this point:

Let me take this opportunity of saying that my Annuity is so secured that were it possible for affairs to turn ever so badly, you my dearest Mama would ever have a right to partake of it, let this assurance calm your mind upon the future, and ever believe me your truly affectionate Daughter.

Direct to Mrs. Stuart
Post Office

Mrs. Stuart, though unaware of it, had already learned one thing about her mobile husband: the address normally would be poste restante. Apart from bits of summarized fragments of letters sent to his wife by Roehenstart she hardly gets mentioned in his papers. In the early thirties Mrs. Stuart lived for a time at Abbéville, was much in Paris, but did not go from there to Italy with her husband on his many journeys to that country. She complained of being left alone, and Roehenstart countered with assurances that the aunt whom he escorted to Naples was disagreeable, and that he was far from leading a gay life, as Mrs. Stuart suspected. The aunt was perhaps financially interesting.

In the winter of 1828/29 the couple had a house at Andernach near Neuwied, and a letter to an unnamed colonel, who is spoken of as  p80 one whose family had been loyal supporters of Prince Charles Edward, invited him to join Roehenstart and his wife as guest for the winter. The letter gives a picture of something more like home life than we get elsewhere. Roehenstart writes:

At Neuwied — If you have not yet settled upon a place of residence for the winter, and if you condescend to accept an apartment in the better part of a house which I have rented for six months at Ehrenbreitstein, my wife and I shall think ourselves extremely happy to have the honour to receive you. We live much retired and know how to pass our time in an agreeable manner free from the need of running after the pleasures of society. Your rooms separate from ours will leave you at liberty to join us only at the hour of dinner, or if you even prefer, I will have you served by yourself. A little music, some good books, whist, chess, &c will make us pass the long winter evenings — I can also furnish you with authoritative information concerning the Turks, whom I know perfectly well: — but I perceive that I look like a merchant trying to sell his wares. My only wish is to see you accept.

At this time and later we get only scattered glimpses of Roehenstart's life. In 1831 he and Mrs. Stuart were back in London for a part of the year — possibly in connection with a suit in chancery. The torn top part of a letter, in the handwriting of Sampigny, is addressed to Messieurs Fladgate, No. 13 Essex Street, London. At the top of the remaining slip of paper is written "Mrs. Smith / 38 North Audeley Street" and the fragment of the letter (written in French) says:

Such is the name of the people of this business who have conferred with Mr. Walther Smythe who has confessed before them to have made the agreement in question. These gentlemen know the address in the city and in the country of M. Walther Smythe, brother of Mme Fitzheiberg [Fitzherbert?].

A different suit in chancery concerning property left by Mrs. Stuart's father, Mr. Bouchier Smith, was about this time apparently successfully defended; for at Abbéville in December Mrs. Stuart received a chancery order for slightly over £67.

During the early thirties Roehenstart was for long periods away from his wife. In 1832 and 1833, if not for a longer time, he was attached to H. M. S. "St. Vincent" (120 guns, the largest man-of‑war in the eastern Mediterranean at this time) as courier or perhaps as interpreter or instructor in languages. His name is not in the Navy Lists of officers assigned to the "St. Vincent", but he writes as if he were such, and so he seems to have been treated. At any rate he had some  p81 sort of very pleasant arrangement, which during the summer months enabled him to tour the Levant. In August, 1833, Mrs. Stuart followed the ship to Malta, and there awaited her husband. His interesting adventures in the Levant — archeological and social — represent perhaps his happiest days. He loved to study ancient Greek remains and enjoyed observing the manners of men wherever he went.

During the winter months he was less pleasantly employed in squiring his unidentified "aunt," a countess, back and forth from Germany to Naples. Such services to this somewhat arrogant faded beauty (as he describes her) are to be explained doubtless as a means of increasing his income. Our knowledge of his naval activities comes from extensive travel diaries or letters; knowledge of his movements when ashore comes either from the brief summaries that he kept of letters to Mrs. Stuart or from much-visaed passports that show his journeys about Italy and occasionally into Germany.

A British passport issued at Paris on April 22, 1835, has especial interest as giving in the unimaginative tabular manner of passports a description of Roehenstart's physical appearance in middle age:

Age 48 years [b. 1787?]
Height 1 m. 70 c. [5 feet 7 inches]
Hair gray
Forehead [word illegible from creasing in the paper]
Eyebrows gray
Eyes blue
Nose niogre [?]a
Mouth me [moyenne?]
Chin round
Face oval
Complexion coloré [ruddy?]
Signes particulièresº none

This passport was used chiefly in trips from Germany to Naples. The identity of the "aunt" whom he accompanied is uncertain. One thinks of some lady from the Rohan family who lived in Germany. Charlotte, Princess of Rohan, was actually Roehenstart's aunt. She lived at times in or near Baden, a region that Roehenstart seems to have frequented. But other possibilities such as a sister of the Countess of Albany (Louise von Stolberg) must be considered. Certainly if he called Louise "maman," he might call her sister "aunt." On one occasion by her orders heavy pieces of furniture, against Roehenstart's advice, were brought from Florence (where the Countess of Albany had lived) to  p82 Germany. Of the aunt Roehenstart writes to his wife: "she has a bad heart and is the counterpart of the C. of Albany." No certain conclusion as to her identity has been reached.

Roehenstart may have disliked his aunt as much as he tells his wife that he did, but he greatly liked Naples, as the bits from the letters written to his wife indicate. He particularly liked the region about Castellamare which in his jotted notes he calls a "delightful spot, classical recollections & learning returning by degree into my thick head — I walk the silent streets." An animated description of Pompeii — "went to see the eruption which they call mine & the horse fell, the rein broke & I jumped out and rolled in the dust with a slight contusion & very narrow escape — the horse was killed on the spot having two legs broken and the poor man died the following morning!" Roehenstart flattered himself on his knowledge of volcanoes — and he was in several traffic accidents. The episode is typical.

After the thirties, from which come his episodes about Naples, we have, apart from his travel diaries in the Levant, few papers and little information about Roehenstart. In August, 1836, he sent his wife a copy of a piece designed for the Glasgow Chronicle with a very friendly letter addressed to "Madame Stuart, rue du Harley No. 4 au Marais, Paris." That constitutes the last mention of Mrs. Stuart in these papers. One judges that she predeceased her husband and left no children: there is no known date for her death.

If we turn from Roehenstart's family environment to that of his commonly mentioned friends, we find our attention focused on Paris and Baden or the Rhine Valley. There is no doubt that he had considerable gifts for making friendships readily. At times to be sure, like an Ancient Mariner he must needs hold the new acquaintance with a glittering tale of his "reclamations." Normally he found willing listeners. His manner of life, being migratory, led him to have many apparently temporary friends, chiefly among English or Russian travelers making the grand tour. His passion for giving information led him to write letters to many such acquaintances. He was well informed in divers fields. He writes with some interest of volcanoes, iron bridges, and of "wild poetic Scotland" as well as of literary subjects. Many of these letters come to our knowledge only in replies from friends who compliment him on his charm as a writer of letters.

There is also a less pleasant side of his gifts for friendship. He could become enraged with a friend and write extremely abusive letters in  p83 his rages. A sort of suspicion of others' scorn existed but did not dominate in Roehenstart's friendships; but there are two cases which show a ready rage that suggest its existence. The first case is that of Messence, Count de la Garde, whose Voyage (1824) caused a violent rupture of his friendship with Roehenstart. They were uneasy friends in London, where at the time the book was published Messence remained, while Roehenstart went to Paris, attended to the reading of proofs, and other aspects of publication, including the writing of reviews. Either these services or a partial collaboration in the writing induced Roehenstart to claim an equal part in the book with Messence. Lack of recognition of this fact or some unknown cause led Roehenstart to break with Messence and to write to him intolerably abusive letters. He began by calling Messence a liar, continued with the avowed conviction "that you are entirely incapable of writing alone the least thing. You have without doubt some wit, some facility with a couplet, but that's all." Messence was told that his awkwardness in society made him the laughing stock of all polite people; that his title as count was falsely assumed, and Roehenstart ends a second letter with a climax to his accusations, as follows:

. . . all these things are of little importance for you, and I knew them already myself; but what inspired me with profound horror is that it is alleged [in a secret report of the police on Messence] that you were arrested and imprisoned in Italy for stealing jewels!

And so shortly after the publication of the Voyage this friendship ended. One doubts if many of Roehenstart's accusations had other grounds than his own extreme rage.

A similar and less justifiable break occurred with the Count de Sampigny not later than 1828. There had been earlier disenchantments in this friendship, which began in America. The troubles were chiefly over money matters. Roehenstart always insisted that Sampigny had exacted double payment of an American loan, and it is clear that Roehenstart was never prompt in repaying loans from Sampigny. From 1816 to 1824, and perhaps longer, they were reconciled friends, and Sampigny did a number of kindly services for Roehenstart. There were troubles other than money probably. Fundamentally Sampigny seems to have been slightly amused at times by Roehenstart's "reclamations." He was effusive in protestations of friendship, but he writes facetiously of Roehenstart's coming glory, calls him "my sovereign," and gets off quips about Roehenstart's marrying a rich princess when probably he  p84 knows that Roehenstart is going to marry a girl named Smith. He was very ready to make small loans, but his notion of good manners did not prevent repeated requests for repayment.

He introduced Roehenstart to distinguished elderly friends, who, he thought, might be of considerable service to Roehenstart. Two of these Nestors were probably General Lenormand de Bretteville and a M. Cales (unidentified: the name is badly written). They did not at once justify Sampigny's hopes for his friend's advancement. We shall hear more of the General. Two other gentlemen may have made Roehenstart's acquaintance through Sampigny. One signs himself D'Entraigues, and evidently thinks Roehenstart might have influence in getting an unnamed person a promotion or a decoration in the French army. D'Entraigues writes from the Château de Montgivroux near Sézanne, and hopes when in Paris "to continue that gentlemanly intercourse which has already been so interesting and agreeable." The other, the Comte D'Angles, a French minister, privy councilor, and industrialist, got Roehenstart interested in investing in a factory for manufacturing steam engines or in an iron forge. Roehenstart got his friend B. Beale a position with the company, and eventually both of them lost money in the affair. Roehenstart avows that he is through with speculations.

The matter that finally separated him from Sampigny was probably an unpleasant affair with a rascal named Herculès. He was apparently a cardsharper who had the misfortune to cheat Roehenstart out of a sum, probably Fr. 500. Roehenstart detecting the cheat undertook to expose the man in the law courts. Sampigny thought that if Roehenstart could afford to go to law, he could afford to pay him the Fr. 175 (plus interest) owing to him. He evidently reported the Herculès affair to Constance Smith's mother, and so seemed to try to prevent Roehenstart's marriage. In 1828 Roehenstart decided to pay Sampigny, and sent a most abusive letter to him by the hand of a common friend, the Comte de Soyecourt. The Count, however, refused to intervene and urged Roehenstart to calm his rage and be reconciled to Sampigny. The year 1828, however, apparently saw the end of the relationship — which had involved estrangement at least two years earlier.

From such unpleasantness we may turn to the friendship with General de Bretteville, who was, after the death of the Prince de Limbourg, the active head of the Ordre d'Ancienne Noblesse et des 4 Empereurs d'Allemagne. In 1822, eager to revive the order, which had fallen into decay as result of the Revolution, the General wished to  p85 employ Roehenstart in finding a new Grand Maître — who had to be a ruling sovereign. This order had been conferred on Roehenstart, it will be remembered, by the king of France in 1818. When in 1822 Sampigny went to visit the General at Montgeron, he carried the information that Roehenstart felt he must have a more official, documented commission for the task of finding a Grand Maître. He got an official letter of appointment as interprète of the wishes of the order to obtain the consent of a sovereign prince to become Grand Maître. It seems doubtful if he had any success with the reigning princes. He offered the post to Ernest, reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg, who if he replied at all to the offer, did not reply without prodding. The post was also offered to the Prince Royal of Bavaria, with results unknown. The awkwardness of awaiting a reply from Duke Ernest of Saxe-Coburg led to some correspondence with the Duke's younger brother, Prince Leopold, whom Roehenstart had known slightly in earlier years. On the whole it is doubtful if activities for this order won any notable prestige for Roehenstart, but it occupied him much in 1822‑25, and it does represent him in somewhat higher circles than elsewhere.

His friendships span a large segment of society. At the top they include the Duke of Württemberg in Russia, the Duke of Gloucester, a royal cousin in England, and Prince Joseph von Hohenlohe, a friend and "fellow officer." Lower down his friends include, as his letters show, various travelers, and at least one true rascal. To be sure the rascal bore the distinguished name of Herculès, and called himself both baron and marquis. Most of Roehenstart's friends lie in between these extremes: friendly travelers have left most traces in Roehenstart's papers, but he seems to have had firm and permanent friends in London and Paris and possibly in Munich and other cities. Most of these relationships can be followed only vaguely, for they are normally both obscure and tantalizing. For us much of Roehenstart's social life must somewhat resemble a masked ball. The following note, for example, undated and unplaced and possibly written in a disguised hand in French, might come from any period in his life and from any capital city whether St. Petersburg, Paris, Vienna, or any other:

One desires most strongly to see and talk with you. You are consequently begged to be this evening at the ball at the opera. A blue ribbon and the name of Margueritte, to which you will answer, will show whether you have been so kind as to grant this entreaty. It will be a keen affliction but no surprise not to see you. The manner of this request doubtless gives a reason for refusing it, but perhaps you will see that this is the only means of arranging it, and that  p86 this occasion once lost might not be recovered; the matter which one wishes to confide to you requires as much speed as discretion. May this hope not be in vain!

At half past one
Monday morning
the bench in the middle of the foyer opposite the door.

The Author's Note:

1 The name is illegibly written, and is here guessed at.

Thayer's Note: Barberini comes immediately to mind, of course — the family's best days were two hundred years behind them, and members of the family are recorded in Paris in the early 19c. Online, in the few pages mentioning her, Roehenstart's wife is always called Maria Antonietta Sofia Barberini: all those pages are clearly based, however, on a popular website which offers no evidence or source. It does, I admit, seem plausible; but it's not certain, especially considering that the family, having given Rome a Pope and several cardinals, was so well known that it would hardly need to be characterized as "distinguished" and "of a rather ancient nobility".

Thayer's Note:

a I haven't seen the handwritten document, whether the original or a copy; but among the standard descriptions of noses one finds in such documents, I think the one most likely to be read this way is busqué: hooked or aquiline.

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