Nov 212012
 

In my previous post I explained that Lady Sarah Archer was widowed at the age of 37 when her husband Andrew, 2nd Lord Archer, Baron of Umberslade, died on 18th April 1778 . She was left to bring up three (possibly four) teenage daughters, She had no inclination to re-marry (why would she: if she remained a widow she kept her late husband’s money; if she re-married all control would pass to her new husband).

She had expensive tastes – she was a keen horsewoman, she ran a fine carriage and set of matching greys, and as I showed previously, she had a gambling habit to make the eyes water. Her daughters simply could not wait to escape her clutches, and her sixteen year old daughter the Honourable Sarah Archer (born 19 July 1762) wasted no time in becoming the wife of the 5th Earl of Plymouth. He rejoiced under the name of none other than Other Hickman Windsor. Their marriage took place on  20 May 1778 (one month after her father died)and gave rise to this fascinating trio of cartoons, shown on the British Museum site.

In the first, entitled ‘The Happy Escape or Arch-runaways’, Lady Archer is shown whip in hand driving her high phaeton, but drawn not by the four greys but by her four daughters. Three have slipped their reins and are running off, leaving one in harness. The Museum description gives us “Lady Archer, an angry harridan, slashes her whip at the runaways. On the side of the gig is an ‘A’ in an escutcheon surmounted by three crossed arrows and a baron’s coronet. On the extreme right is a signpost, one arm of which points ‘To Longsl . . . .’ The other, in the direction which the daughters are taking, ”To Bruton St.’ All the ladies wear the broad-brimmed hats with high circular crowns which had just become fashionable. Lady Archer wears a driving-dress with a triple cape and a large shirt-frill. It is dated 19 March 1788.”

According to the Museum the daughter still in bondage is Harriet. The leader of the pack of runaways (shown in back view) is Maria, the next Anne, and the last is Sarah Archer.

The second in the series of etchings is entitled ‘The Vain Pursuit’

It shows Lady Archer riding astride one of her daughters, using her whip to lash her backside, while her rather stoutly-built sister Miss West accompanies her, holding a poodle and riding a greyhound. The abandoned high phaeton appears in the background, while on the roadside, behind the hedge three fugitive daughters are in hiding. The front one says “Just & steady to our purpose”. The sign post points towards Plymouth (as in the Earl) and to Dis(s)ipation. The print appeared ten days after the first one was published.

The third in the trilogy is dated 1st May 1788 and is entitled ‘So, so, the Race was for a Husband.’ It shows a somewhat obese Earl Plymouth escorting  Hon. Sarah Archer with his arm in hers as they walk along a path towards a country church.  In the porch are the vicar and his clerk. Plymouth says:
‘See the Vicar waits to Join

Plymouth to Archer all Divine’
She replies:
‘Let us now to Church repair

Hymens bonds I had rather bear

Than a Mothers surly care’
Her two sisters walk immediately behind them, hand in hand.   On the extreme right Lady Archer,  walks off saying:
‘You may go if you will

For I shall have my fill

Of Mirth & of Pleasure

Without End or Measure

So take your own way’

The trio of prints clearly show disapproval of Lady Archer’s maternal skills – someone who had tyrannized her daughters and was largely indifferent to anyone’s happiness other than her own. In fact her daughter Sarah had three children by Plymouth, and following his death she married William Pitt Amherst, 1st Earl Amherst of Arracan, and had four more children by him. She died in 1838

Her sister the Hon.Maria Archer married Henry Howard , on 4 November 1788. She died exactly one year later. The other sister Harriet married Edward Bolton Clive in 1790.

In my next post I will revert to the mother’s gambling addiction, and to her connection with the death of poor Mr Weston…

  7 Responses to “Lady Archer, definitely NOT winning ‘Mother of the Year’ Award”

  1.  

    What made Lady Archer into an angry harridan? The fact that she didn’t want to submit to the tyranny of another husband? Or the fact that she had a gambling problem? Or something else?

    Clearly the trio of prints DOES suggest Lady Archer tyrannised her daughters and was largely indifferent to anyone’s happiness other than her own, but where did this view of her come from?

    •  

      I have been unable to find out anything positive about her – in particular about what she was like when her husband was alive. She seems to have come into prominence after her husband died – women were only supposed to have ‘pin money’ and yet here was someone with her own (well, maybe her daughters’) resources who did rather well at doing all the things men regarded as ‘theirs’ (gambling, horse riding etc). I have to agree: the fact that the sixteen year old ran off and got married just as soon as Dad died does not in itself mean that Lady A was a bad mother – just that an impressionable girl wanted an older father figure in her life.But I suspect that this forthright self-centred Grand Dame may have been either too strict or too negligent to care too much either way…

  2.  

    Ok what happened to the fourth daughter?

    •  

      Not sure if there even was one! Burke’s Peearge is silent on the point. Anyone any ideas? Sold herself as a white slave? Preferred to scrub floors in penury rather than put up with Mum? Took up with an itinerant gypsy? Or all three?

  3.  

    Read Gillian Russell’s “Faro’s Daughter”: Female Gamesters, Politics, and the Discourse of Finance in 1790’s Britain at http://www.bupedu.com. It explains all and actually, elucidates where that remarkable face that shows up in so many cartoons of the period comes from. Lady Archer was the original old harridon gotten up in rouge and silks.

  4.  

    I seriously love that profile. It would be great to see a painting of her, to see if she really had those red cheeks and that hook nose!

    I am most fascinated with the dress of the young girls. Often petticoats and outer gowns of the period (extant ones) are largely both with matching material, but these ladies are shown with different coloured petticoats to their gowns.
    Now when I sew 18th century period costumes, I wont feel so “unhistorical” when my petticoats and gowns dont match! 🙂

    •  

      Don’t forget that many of the prints appeared first a black and white images and were hand coloured after the event, not necessarily by the perrson who prepared the print. But clearly the colourist would not have shown a different colour unless it did actually happen. Unless anyone knows otherwise please feel free to continue with your period costumes!Let’s have a link to some pictures! Mike

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