Nov 232012
 

In my first blog on Lady Archer I explained that both she and Lady Buckinghamshire ran Faro Banks at their homes, rotating play from one night to the next. Punters up in Town would come  round by invitation, often arriving at eleven o’clock and staying to gamble until  the not-so-early hours. One of the unfortunates to be ensnared in the gambling trap was the unfortunate Henry Weston.

Henry came from a respectable Irish family. He came to England in the 1790’s and got a job working for a Mr Cowan,who had links with the Army. In 1794 Mr Cowan had to go abroad, and gave his (apparently trustworthy) employee an unlimited order to draw upon his bank. Henry was inveigled to abuse the trust put in him and to take out funds for use as stake money for games of Faro. The young man lost the lot. He therefore forged a cheque, in the name of General Tonyn, and managed to obtain ten thousand pounds in cash. It lasted him just two nights at the Faro tables…

Henry managed to cover this up for a while – he still paid the General his dividends when they became due, but he became more and more desperate for cash. He approached his cousin, Sir Hugh Walter, and suggested that he could assist him by investing money which Sir Hugh had inherited. That money was also gambled away in next to no time. Henry then persuaded a young woman to impersonate the sister of General Tonyn and to accompany him to the Bank of England and to sign a warrant as the General’s attorney. The ruse worked, and the couple left the Bank a hundred thousand pounds richer.

But guess what, Henry managed to blow the lot at the Faro table! Realizing that his time was up he headed for Liverpool in an effort to flee the country for America. As the authorities began to catch up with him he attempted to commit suicide by slashing his throat. The attempt failed. He was caught and committed to the Old Bailey and his trial took place in May 1796. The jury found him guilty of forgery and he was sentenced to death. In his address to the court he apparently made a most touching statement:

“My Lord and gentlemen of the jury, the verdict which has now been passed upon me I hear with calmness and resignation, which I am happy in possessing upon so awful an occasion. I am, my Lord, as my appearance may easily show, a very young man. I hope the numerous young men who surround me will take example by my fate, and avoid those excesses, and fatal vice of gambling, which have brought me to ruin and disgrace, and I hope too that those further advanced in years will be cautious not to confine with too unlimited a control the management of their concerns to the care of inexperienced young men. The justice of my condemnation I acknowledge, and shall submit to it with patience and, I hope, with fortitude.”

Henry Weston went to the gallows on 6th July 1796. His death was a harsh reminder of the perils of gambling.

Faros Daughters, by Isaac Cruikshank,
courtesy of the British Museum

A prosecution for running illegal gambling activities was brought against Lady Buckinghamshire and three of her cronies, and each of them was fined fifty pounds. The Morning Post of January 12 1800 says “Society has reason to rejoice in the complete downfall of the Faro Dames, who were so long the disgrace of human nature. Their die is cast and their old tricks no longer avail.” The days of the Faro Ladies were indeed nearly over. Public opinion had turned against them and custom dried up.

In the caricature above I am not quite sure why Cruikshank shows Fox, instantly recognizable with his stubble, sitting in the stocks, half-hidden under the petticoats of the buxom Mrs Concannon. In the centre is Lady Archer (unmistakable with that nose in profile!) and to the left Mrs Sturt. Lady Buckinghamshire is shown, with her bare posterior, at the rear of the picture. The ‘Faro Daughters’ were not actually put in the pillory, but the ridicule must have been overwhelming for the four concerned.

One wonders how many other foolish young men had been ruined by the illegal activities of the Faro’s Daughters, which had gone unchallenged for so many years – presumably because the ladies in question were titled and well-connected.

Lady Archer died in 1801.

  2 Responses to “Lady Archer, Faro’s Daughters, and the sad case of Henry Weston”

  1.  

    Charles Fox was a well known gambler. His losses were in the thousands of pounds. He was a member of the nobility and had wealth behind him so didn’t end up in the unfortunate position of young Weston. Is debts, like those of the Duchess of Devonshire , amounted to enough to provide living expenses for several villages. Fox was a popular politician and his gambling was a bad example for young men like Weston.
    Thanks for these illustrations.

  2.  

    I am interested to know what consisted of “illegal gambling activities”, especially as lots of people had card parties at their homes… What exactly had the Faro Daughters done to get shut down?
    I do feel sorry for poor Henry though…

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