William Windham

A William Windham, Esq. subscribed to Kirby’s Twelve Prints and Historical Account. The Windhams were an old, prominent, and complex Norfolk family, far too many of whom were called William. However, Kirby’s Windham is probably the William Windham of Earsham in Norfolk, just across the county border from Bungay who was MP for Aldeburgh at the time. His father, Colonel William Windham, had served under Marlborough and lost a leg at Blenheim. He bought Earsham Hall in 1720 and was himself MP for Sudbury from 1722 to 1727 and then Aldeburgh from 1727 until his death in 1730.

Earsham Hall

The younger William (c.1706—1789), was appointed sub-governor to the Duke of Cumberland (son of George II, and also called William) in 1731. Windham was to serve the Duke until he died in 1765. While in service as governor, he naturally met the governess of the younger princesses. She was Mary, Dowager Countess Deloraine. Born Mary Howard, daughter of Captain Charles Howard, she had first been a maid of honour to Queen Caroline (then the Princess of Wales), but had lost her position when she married Henry Scott, Earl of Deloraine in 1726. He was lord of the bedchamber to George II (then the Prince of Wales), continuing on after the accession. He died in 1730, leaving a pretty widow and two young daughters. Mary now came back into royal service as governess of the princesses and appears in that role in Hogarth’s conversation piece “The Indian Emperor, or The Conquest of Mexico”. The performance being commemorated had taken place in 1732, although Hogarth did not finish the painting until 1735.

Mary bending down pointing out a dropped fan

Mary and William Windham married in April 1734, and this time she got to retain her position having at length talked Queen Caroline into keeping her on as a married woman. She soon added another post, that of mistress to the king. John Hervey, who Lucy Worsley in The Courtiers terms, “The most malicious, amusing and memorable spokesperson for the Georgian court”, and who really did not like Mary, said that the king had made “the governess of his two youngest daughters his whore… and the guardian director of his son’s youth and morals his cuckold”. Mary and William had one son, who died in 1743, and she followed in 1744, having lost the king’s favor a couple of years previously.

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One thought on “William Windham

  1. Pingback: A Clique of Politicians | Kirby and his world

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