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By Walter Money F.S.A.

THE MARGRAVINE OF ANSPACHThe reputation acquired by the Margravine of Anspach has conferred no ordinary celebrity on her name, and the events of her life as delineated in her memoirs are not only interesting by reason of the descriptive passage illustrative of her travels, but also on account of the many personal incidents and anecdotes she relates concerning the numerous notable personages with whom she was brought in contact during the course of her extended experiences. She was the youngest daughter of Augustus, 4th Earl of Berkeley, and was born in 1750. At the early age of a little more than sixteen she married William, afterwards 6th Baron Craven, by whom she had seven children. This union was not a happy one, an a separation consequently took place in 1781; and the next ten years Lady Craven spent on the Continent. Here she became acquainted with the Margrave, or, as the Margravine recounts his titles,-"Christian Charles Alexander Frederic, Margrave of Brandenburg, Anspach, and Bareith, Duke of Prussia, Compte of Sayn, &c., &c., &c.," nephew of Frederick II. King of Prussia, comonly called "The Great" and on the death of Lord Craven in 1791, she was married to the Margrave at Lisbon. The Margrave, having abdicated in favour of the King of Prussia, retired to England, and resided at Brandenbourg House, Hammersmith, which he had purchased at the request of the Margravine. Two years after the marriage with the Margravine, the Emperor, Francis II., Emperor of Germany, and I. of Austria, bestowed on her the title of Princess Berkeley. Her eldest son had entered the army, and, his father having given him the disposal of Benham-Valence, he sold the estate to the Margrave of Anspach. Speaking of Benham, the Margravine says.-"This was a favourite spot with me and Lord Craven, and it gave me infinite pain to see it parted with. I had built it myself, with my husband´s permission, and laid out the grounds according to my own taste; nor could I suffer any of the modern landscape-gardeners to interfere, though strongly pressed to allow them. The famous man named Capability Brown was desirous of being employed; but, as he had already laid out twelve thousand pounds for Lord Craven at Coombe Abbey, I thought it unnecessary to be more plundered, and trusted to myself to adding to Nature." During her residence at Benham the Margravine attempted to stop up the right of way through Benhampark, which attempt was successfully resisted by the village Hampdens of the time, but not until a great deal of unpleasant feeling Hampdens of the time, but not until a great deal of unpleasant feeling had been created, as will be seen by the following correspondence relating to two officers of the Berks Provisional Cavalry who rode through the park tin the belief that this was a bridle-road to Hoe-Benham. The letters of the Margravine are very characteristic. This is the first letter of the Margravine to Col. Dundas, Commandant of the Yeomanry:-
“ The Margrane of Ansph begs leave to inform the commanding officer of the B.P.C. that two young officers forc’d their way thro’ the gate, telling the woman that wanted to deter them that they were going to Benham House, and meeting the Marne who asked them if they were going there, they answered they thought the road was publick, she assured them it was not, but they proceeded through. The Marne hopes (whatever these young men may be) they ought to be informed they have behaved very unlike gentlemen, and of course not in the least like officers.”

“ The officers commanding the B.P.C. beg leave to inform her Highness the Marne of Ansp that the two gentlemen who rode through Benham place gate yesterday did that conceiving that the road was publick, as leading to Benham-Hoe, which opinion they had formed from the constant practice during the late Ld Craven’s residence at Benham, and the repute of the country. Under this idea they opened the gate and did not answer the women who charge for it, who did not appear until one of the officers alluded to had passed. These gentlemen are by no means desirous of interfering with the wishes of any person, however this right of road may stand, but the regret that her Highness should have thrown any hasty reflections on their conduct, which coming from her Highness they cannot investigate.”

“ Upon enquiry the Marne finds the commanding officer is Col. Dundas, who should e’er now have done himself the honor of making himself known to the Margrave, by having waited on him with all the officers of the Corps to compliment so good, so great a man on his arrival in Berkshire. The Margravine is authorised to tell Mr. Dundas this, having in the whole empire of Germany as well as Russia received such and more civilitys, tho’ she was only a passenger in those countries, because she was a peeress of England, and now she has informed him how gentlemen behave to princes and peers, she informes him that she had the happiness of living a Benham before Mr. Dundas came into the country, and with Ld Craven, her late husband, whose determination then, as well as hers is now, never to permit any one to make passage thro Benham Hoe, or any other Benham, the Margravine being now in possession of Hampstead, Benham, and all her son’s manorial rights, will preserve them to her son inviolable, always glad to fulfil her late lord’s intentions, notwithstanding of doing anything she can do to oblige any resident near her, when they don’t forget what she is, and the obligations the whole nation as well as Berkshire are under to the best of princes and the most excellent of men, her present husband.”
This little contre-temps appears to have blown over, as the next year the Margravine presented a handsome silk standard to the Cavalry, inscribed with her own motto - “Salus Publica, Salus Mea.”

The Margravine in writing her reminiscences had the advantage of interesting subjects for her criticism, and has always something original to say on the many remarkable characters she met in her travels during a conspicuous period of political and literary history. No writer has, perhaps, more clearly appreciated the varied intellectual gifts and complicated character of the great author of the “Rambler,” who was a frequent visitor at Benham, than Lady Craven, as we must term her at this time. And if all the passages on the memoirs are not consistent with perfect taste, this may be readily excused in a writer whose opinions have the attraction of originality as well as being formed on personal observation. “Dr. Johnson,” she says, “who had recommended to me a tutor for my eldest son, whose health did not suffer him to go to a public school till he was ten years old, came frequently to see me; and I believe would have been the most agreeable person in the world, if he had had a female companion to suit him at home by his fireside; for gigantic and extraordinary as his thoughts and language were, there was a goodness of heart that pierced through his learning, and made him admired when he lost sight of it.” With equal adroitness the Margravine handles the foibles of the mighty genius, as in her felicitous compliments to real merit, and with practical common sense measures the great lexicographer as follows:-

“His biographers have combined to give the world every idle as well as sensible word he had ever spoken, and every trifling as well as serious action he ever performed: they have given at full length every little failing on defect. What character can stand against such a host of spies and informers! And much less that of a man, who, with much pain of body and uneasiness of mind, lived surrounded by those who were watching what the might take down, and what might fall from him at a time when few are supposed to have a command of themselves. But no one who knows how to appreciate his merit from his writings will ever think of attributing to him harsh and absurd opinions, as the deliberate sentiments of his heart.

“One day,” adds the Margravine, ‘in a tête-à-tête, I asked him why he chose to do me the singular favour of sitting so often and taking his tea with me. I, who am an ignorant woman,’ I said, ‘ and who , if I have any share of natural wit or sence, am so much afraid of you that my language and thoughts are looked up of fade away when I am about to speak to you.’ He laughed very much at first, and then said, ‘ An ignorant woman! The little I have perceived in your conversation pleases me; ’-and then with a serious and almost religious emphasis, he said, ‘I do like you!’ – ‘And for what?’ I said. He put his large hand upon my arm, and with an expression I shall never forget, he pressed it, and said, ‘Because you are a good mother.’ Heaven is my witness, I was more delighted at his saying this, than if he had praised me for my wit of manners, or any gift he might have perceived in me.”

The Margrave died a Benham in 1806, in his seventieth year, and bequeathed the estate to the Margravine. He was buried in the parish church at Speen, with considerable ceremony, (1) where a monument was erected by the Margravine to his beloved memory. The Margravine adds in her Memoirs that she erected an elegant mausoleum at Benham, the marble of which she procured from Italy, as a record of the virtues –“I spared no expences” she says, “for this memorial; the sum of upwards of five thousand pounds which it has cost me, is a small consideration of my gratitude.” There has hiherto been some misconception as regards this mausoleum-it having been stated in a local word to refer to the monument now in Speen Church, but this is not so. The mausoleum, a solid structure of stone, with the interior formed of rare and precious marbles, was erected in the ornamental grounds at the rear of the mansion at Benham, by the side of the Bath-road, from which it was approached by a pair of massive iron gates. (2) There was a cottage for the caretaker close by, who reaped a rich harvest by showing the mausoleum to the numerous passengers by the stage-coaches which the thronged this great highway. The mausoleum and its appurtenances were removed, after the death of the Margravine, and the materials sold by auction, but its site can still be identified by the differences in the brickwork of the wall when the gates were removed and the opening built up. The monument by Canova was originally placed in the mausoleum, and after its removal was erected in Speen Church. In 1811 the Margravine left Benham, and in a very spirited public address says:-

“I take this method of assuring the people of Newbury and all the worthy yeomanry of the county of Berks, that I only wish that I had ten times as much landed property in the county as I have, to have ten times the means and opportunities of proving my attachment to it.”

The Margravine made several ineffectual attempts to stop the public foot-path by the mansion to Marsh-Benham; (3) and it was largely owning to the annoyance and chagrin this question caused her that she left Benham, which she only again re-visited, when she came to see the monument erected to the Margrave. The King of Naples having presented her with two acres of land, commanding a complete view of the bay of Naples, she built a villa there, in form similar to her pavillion at Hammersmith; a large room in the centre, with smaller apartments surrounding it. Here the Margravine died 13 January, 1828. She was buried in the English cemetery at Naples; her own carriage drawn by four horses bearing her to her last home. A long string of carriages followed.

In addition to the many published dramatic pieces written by the Margravine, she produced several others for the amusement of her friends, at her private theatre in Brandenburgh House, which have never been printed; and was the author of “A Journey through the Crimea to Constantinople,” 4to, 1789, “The Soldier of Diérenstein,” etc.

Not only had the Margravine considerble literary ability, and a refined and discriminating taste for the fine arts, but attained some success as an amateur sculptor; and among other productions of her chisel, was a bust of her husband, the Margrave, which was engraved by Fry form drawing made by Uwins, and forms the frontispiece to the Memoirs.

(1) The funeral procession was as follows:-
Two mutes.
Board of feathers, dressed with pendants.
Twenty-four gentlemen, two and two, with silk scarves and hat-bands.
Groom of the Chamber, mounted on a horse dressed with black velvet and escutcheous, carrying the Crown and Cushion. The horse led by the late Margrave’s groom.
Six men in mourning cloaks. { Hearse and six containing the BODY; coffin Covered with crimson velvet, ornamented with Gilt nails, crowns, &c., and lined with white Satin, and the hearse dressed with escutcheons. } Six men in mourning cloaks.

The late Margrave’s private horse, put in mourning and led by two grooms behind the hearse.
First mourning coach and six, with the Hon. Keppel Craven, and the Margrave’s
Two chamberlains, with the keys in crape, scarves, &c.
Second coach and six, with Lord Craven, Hon. Berkeley Craven, and Baron Jacobi.
Third coach and six, six gentlemen as pall-bearers, with satin hat bands and scarves.
Fourth coach and six, two clergymen and two medical men.
Fifth and sixth coaches, seven upper servants of the deceased.
Margravine’s coach and six, with footmen behind in state liveries, closed the procession.
The concourse of spectators was very great, and the Newbury, Shaw, and Speen volunteers attended to keep order, and also to pay respect to the late Margrave, who was a liberal patron of the corps.

(2) These iron gates through which the mausoleum was approached, are still in existence, and are fixed at the entrance to the road leading to “The Firs,” Furze Hill, Stockcross. The gate pillars are ornamented at the top with bold battle-axe terminations, and the vertical bars are surmounted with massive spear-head points.

(3) The right of way was diverted by Order of the court of Quarter Sessions, Eater, 1892.

Text entnommen aus:
Walter Money F.S.A., History of Speen – Collections for the History of the Parish of Speen in the County of Berks, Newbury 1892, S. 97-101

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