Mee, Anne - portrait of Lady Carteret

This is another purchase of an identified sitter in a miniature portrait, where the resultant research has led to interesting aspects of history, even providing a link between Princess Charlotte of Wales and Princess Caraboo.

Anne Mee
There were many female miniature painters in the late 19C and early 20C, but there were few in the early 19C. One who was popular at that time was Anne Mee (1775-1851), who was commissioned to paint miniature portraits by many of the aristocracy.

Née Anne Foldstone, she was the daughter of John Foldstone, a copyist of pictures, who died while quite young. Anne was educated at a French Lady’s school in London and had artistic gifts as a musician, poetess and painter. She was a protégée and pupil of Romney and is said to have supported her mother and eight brothers and sisters at a early age. She obtained the patronage of George IV (when Prince of Wales) and was working at Windsor Castle in 1790 and 1791. By 1804, Joseph Farrington recorded that she was asking as much as 40 guineas for a miniature. Sometime before 1804 she married Joseph Mee, of Mount Anna, Armagh by whom she had six children before she was 33.

Joseph Mee was possessed of a fairly large estate in Armagh and left an estate of a handsome property, houses, and etc. Family tradition has it that he was proud of his wife’s hair and after a violent quarrel she cut it close to her head just to spite him! He was a barrister, who was said to have been jealous of his wife and would not let men sit to her. She exhibited at the R.A. and B.I., 1804-1837. Mrs Mee was influenced by Cosway but her work is not always well drawn. Often her eyes are rather large, and in her early work the colour scheme is simple. The face is usually painted with a mixture of stippling and hatching.

Mary Anne Master
A fortunate acquisition, as the artist was unmentioned in the auction description, is this miniature of Mary Anne Master (10 June 1777-1863), who on 18 June, 1801 married John Thynne, third Baron Carteret (28 December 1772 - 10 March 1849). He was known as Lord John Thynne and was a British peer and politician. Their marriage was childless. The miniature is attributed to Ann Mee on stylistic grounds; it has been re-framed and the case is engraved on the reverse 'Mary Anne Lady Carteret dr of Thomas Masters (sic) Esq".

Mary Anne Master was the third daughter of Thomas Master MP for Cirencester, of Abbey House, Cirencester Gloucestershire, which was demolished in 1964, and also of Knole Park, in Gloucestershire. The Master family could trace their descent from Henry VII, via Mary Tudor and the Duke of Suffolk. As Lady Carteret, she was for some years, Lady of the Bedchamber to the Princess Sophia. She succeeded to the Master estates on the death of her spinster sister Jane in August 1862, but lived to enjoy them for a little more than six months, for she died on 22 February 1863, and her cousin Colonel Chester Master of Knole inherited the estate.

Lord John Thynne was the third surviving son (12th of 14 children) of Thomas Thynne, 1st Marquess of Bath, and Lady Elizabeth, daughter of William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland. His coat of arms appears here, and at one point, the family maintained a residence at Carteret in Cornwall, from whence came the name. Lord John Thynne was a member of St John's college, Cambridge, where he took the honorary degree of MA in 1794. For thirty-six years he was one of the members in Parliament for the city of Bath. He was first returned for the borough of Weobley, at the general election of 1796; but his father's death occurring in the following November, and his brother who had been member for Bath from the year 1790, then succeeding to the peerage, Lord John having accepted the Chiltern hundreds, was adopted by the corporation of Bath as his substitute.

They afterwards re-elected him eleven times. One of these occasions was in July 1804, when he was appointed Vice Chamberlain of his Majesty's Household, and sworn a Privy Councillor. The next occasion was more extraordinary. Having inadvertently voted after his re-election, without having taken the oaths required by law, his seat became vacated, and a new election necessary. An act of indemnity was also passed to relieve him of the penalties incurred by this irregularity.

He retained the office of Vice Chamberlain until the death of King George the Third in 1820. In 1826 he encountered the first contested election, in the hitherto quiescent city of Bath. He was returned at the head of the poll with 17 votes, the Earl of Brecknock had 16, and Major General Charles Palmer 12.

With the passing of the Reform Act in 1832 the functions of his electors the old Corporation ceased and the new electors returned the Liberal Mr Roebuck in his place. He served as Vice-Chamberlain of the Household from 1804 to 1812 and was sworn of the Privy Council in 1804. In 1838 he succeeded his childless elder brother in the barony and took his seat in the House of Lords. On his death at Hawnes Place, near Ampthill, Bedfordshire, the barony became extinct, with his estates devolving on his nephew.

Princess Charlotte of Wales
As wife of Lord John Thynne, Lady Carteret would have been in attendance when Queen Charlotte visited Bath. In October, 1817, it was announced officially the queen intended to honour Bath with a visit.

On Monday, November 3rd, at an early hour, her Majesty, with the Princess Elizabeth and suite, left Windsor Castle for Bath. They proceeded at a rapid rate. In the course of the afternoon, a vast concourse left Bath to meet the Royal party, who entered the city at half-past four, full an hour before they were expected. The Royal carriages, escorted by the 15th Dragoons, passed Walcot Church and proceeded by the York House, down Milsom Street, and through New Bond Street to Sydney Place. In the evening a deputation from the Corporate Body waited on her Majesty, who was graciously pleased to fix a time for receiving an address. The Countesses of Ilchester and Cardigan, Lord John Thynne, Major-General Taylor, and Colonel Stephenson were in attendance. His Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence had previously arrived from Lord Harcourt's seat in Oxfordshire.

On Wednesday, the 5th, at two o'clock, the Queen was received at the Pump Room by several of the Royal household, a glass of Bath water being handed to her Majesty by John Kitson, Esq., the Mayor. At two o'clock on the 6th, the Mayor, accompanied by the Marquis Camden (the Recorder), the City Representatives in Parliament, the Rector, Aldermen, and Common Council, proceeded to the Queen's residence, where the Marquis delivered a loyal address, to which her Majesty replied in person, with much dignity and expressive animation. The Municipal Body were then severally introduced by Colonel Disbrowe, and had the honour of kissing her Majesty's hand.

At six on the same evening, a public dinner was served at the Guildhall, and the Mayor was honoured with the company of his Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence, the Marquisses of Bath and Camden, the principal officers of the Royal household, and several distinguished military and naval officers, with the resident clergy and members of the Corporation. The dinner having passed with much hilarity, and the cloth being removed, a messenger arrived with a letter for the Royal Duke, the perusal of which evidently produced much agitation ; and in a few minutes afterwards his Royal Highness hastened, with hurried steps, from the table. All was consternation! What could it mean?

In a few minutes the Marquis Camden, in the most feeling manner, announced the death of her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte of Wales! It has been stated that her Majesty was at a ball, at the Guildhall, when the intelligence arrived. It is almost needless to say that even if her Majesty had visited Bath for pleasure she would not have attended a public ball, either at the Guildhall or the recognised Assembly Rooms. But it must be remembered that her Majesty was advanced in years, and that her sole object in visiting the city was for the use of its thermal springs.

Princess Caraboo
The Master family, as owners of Knole Park, Almondsbury, although it appears it was rented out to a Mr Samuel Worrall at the time, were indirectly associated with the strange story of "Princess Caraboo". It being highly likely Lady Carteret met Princess Caraboo.

Mary Baker (née Willcocks; 1791 – 4 January 1865) was a noted imposter who went by the name Princess Caraboo. She pretended to be from a faraway island and fooled a British town for some time.

On 3 April 1817, a cobbler in Almondsbury in Gloucestershire, England, met an apparently disoriented young woman with exotic clothes who was speaking a language no one could understand. The cobbler's wife took her to the Overseer of the Poor who left her in the hands of the local county magistrate, Samuel Worrall, who lived in Knole Park. When he and his American-born wife Elizabeth, could not understand her either, they sent her to the local inn, where she identified a drawing of a pineapple with the word ‘ananas’ which means pineapple in many Indo-European languages, and insisted on sleeping on the floor. Samuel Worrall declared she was a beggar and should be taken to Bristol tried for vagrancy.

All they could immediately find out was that she called herself Caraboo and that she was interested in Chinese imagery. They sent her to the mayor of Bristol who ended up sending her to St Peter's Hospital. There she declined all meat.

Locals brought many foreigners who tried to find out what strange language the lady was talking, but apparently in vain. Then came a Portuguese sailor named Manuel Eynesso who said he knew the language and translated her story. According to Eynesso, she was Princess Caraboo from the island of Javasu in the Indian Ocean. She had been captured by pirates and after a long voyage she had jumped overboard in the Bristol Channel and swum ashore.

The Worralls brought Caraboo back to Knole Park. For the next ten weeks, this representative of exotic royalty was a favourite of the local dignitaries. She used a bow and arrow, fenced, swam naked and prayed to God, whom she termed Allah Tallah. She acquired exotic clothing and a portrait made of her was reproduced in local newspapers.

Eventually the truth came out. A certain Mrs. Neale recognised her from the picture in the Bristol Journal and informed her hosts. The would-be princess was actually a cobbler's daughter, Mary Baker (née Willcocks) from Witheridge, Devon. She had been a servant girl in various places all over England, but had not found a place to stay. She had invented a fictitious language out of imaginary and gypsy words and created an exotic character. The British press had a field day at the expense of the duped rustic middle-class.

Her hosts arranged for her to leave for Philadelphia and she departed 28 June 1817. In the USA, she briefly continued her role, but lost contact with the Worralls after a couple of months. In 1821, she had returned to Britain but her act was no longer very successful. She briefly travelled to France and Spain in her guise but soon returned to England and re-married. In September 1828, she was living in Bedminster with the name Mary Burgess and gave birth to a daughter the next year. In 1839, she was selling leeches to the Bristol Infirmary Hospital. "Princess Caraboo" died on January 4, 1865 and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Hebron Road cemetery in Bristol. 1371


Ann Longmore-Etheridge said...

Gosh, the Princess Caraboo story is wonderful. I'm surprised no one has done a screenplay on that one.

Don Shelton said...

Hi Ann, Yes they have - according to Wikipedia:

The hoax provided material for a script, filmed in 1994, Princess Caraboo, written by Michael Austin and John Wells, which added some fictional elements to the story. A novel by Catherin Johnson based on her life was published in 2015.

Several stage musical adaptations have been attempted based on the story of Princess Caraboo, including a 2004 workshop starring Laura Benanti, Caraboo.

A full stage musical, Princess Caraboo, opened on 30 March 2016 at London's Finborough Theatre, with a book and lyrics written by Phil Willmott and composed by Mark Collins. The limited-run production opened to positive reviews, earning Best New Musical and Best lighting design nominations at the Off West End Theatre Awards.