Thomson, William John - portrait of Charlotte Knox Trotter

The Case of the Cabinet-Maker's Daughter
Another stroll through history, via the "back of a miniature portrait"!

Signed and dated miniature portraits, with identified sitters are generally preferred by collectors, although very few miniatures are each; signed, dated, and identified.

Obviously, those characteristics make it easier to research an artist and their sitter. However, another benefit of dated miniatures, is the ability to assign an approximate date to another undated miniature though a comparison of comparative costume or hairstyle, seeking similarities.

Thus this miniature by William John Thomson (sometimes recorded as William John Thompson), clearly signed and dated on the reverse "Painted by W J Thomson Sept 1831 Edinburgh" is helpful as a reference piece.

Charlotte is wearing a pale blue loosely draped dress, with what were called "leg-of-mutton" sleeves, a wide belt, and a low neck. She has a shawl over her shoulder and her hair is piled very high. Her hair is almost a throw back to the 1770's, but without the use of powder and decorations. Her long necklace may hold a miniature portrait and she has long drop ear earrings.

Thus we can tell these features were fashionable in 1831 and undated miniatures with similar features can be dated to around 1830.

Also, as will become evident below and as is often the case in researching miniatures, the name of a sitter can turn a miniature from being just another miniature "portrait of a young lady" into an interesting and almost three dimensional "living" person, by adding "flesh and bones" to the portrait.

Thus this sitter has been revealed as Charlotte Trotter, the daughter of the famous Scottish cabinet-maker, William Trotter, who also served as Lord Provost of Edinburgh.

The Miniature and the Artist

Unusually the case and the miniature are octagonal in shape, with the miniature set within a 15ct gold bezel frame and with its original protective convex glass. Miniatures of this shape are rarely found, and from memory, I think there are only two others in this collection, one being English and one French. However, both of those are much smaller than this one which is 82mm x 63mm.

A little confusingly, the outer case (not shown) is Edwardian. This may be because the reverse glass of the original locket case was broken and it was cheaper to have it framed in an Edwardian case, rather than having a rear octagonal glass custom made which would have been expensive. The reverse of the outer case has a pull-out strut and is embossed with the framer's name "Mansfield, 90 Grafton Street, Dublin".

The artist, William John Thomson (1771-1845) classifies as both a British and American artist, as he was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1771, but worked for most of his life in Britain.

He was the son of Alexander Thomson and Mary Elizabeth Spencer (?-1778) who appear to have been married on 24 Nov 1770 in Edinburgh Parish, Edinburgh, Scotland. His father, Alexander Thomson (?-1798), and son of James Thomson, was a customs collector and loyalist who returned to Britain in 1776, although he did return briefly to Georgia in the early 1780's. He then retired in Britain on a small pension.

Mary Elizabeth Spencer was the daughter of William Spencer. I have been advised by a direct Thomson descendant that Alexander Thomson and Mary Elizabeth Spencer had a second son, Anthony Todd Thomson. The family is seeking to identify more closely James Thomson, as there is a family story that he was in fact the son of a Jacobite Earl.

The information available to the Thomson descendent is that William John Thomson, shared the view of his father Alexander Thomson, that his grandfather James Thomson, was in actual fact James Carnegie (the son of James Carnegie, the 5th Earl of Southesk). The 5th Earl fled Scotland to the continent as a result of the 1715 Jacobite uprising and legend has it that he died in France. In 1716 he was attainted as a Jacobite. His estates, at that time of the annual rental of £3,271, probably about a tenth of their present value, were forfeited to the crown. In 1717 an act passed to enable his majesty to make provision for his wife and children. He died in France in 1729. He married Lady Margaret Stewart, eldest daughter of the fifth earl of Galloway, and had a son and a daughter, who both died young. With this earl the elder branch became extinct. His countess took for her second husband John, master of Sinclair

However, see also - Person Page 19799 which records that the 5th Earl of Southesk died 10 Feb 1729/1730 and had two children who both died young.

Two possible explanations are;
Firstly, that the two children did not die young, but were left behind when the 5th Earl fled to France and adopted by someone called Thomson, to conceal their identity. The wife of the 5th Earl, Lady Margaret Stewart was remarried after his death to
John St Clair, Master of Sinclair in about 1733 . John St Clair had also been attainted as a Jacobite, but was pardoned in 1723.

As Lady Margaret
lived until 1747 and had no children from her second marriage, it seems highly likely she would have reclaimed the children from her first marriage, after the 1717 Act providing support for her and her children, if not to seek also a pardon and so protect their inheritance and/or title.

Secondly, that James Thomson was perhaps an illegitimate son of the 5th Earl, which would provide an explanation for the different surname and also explain the apparent disinterest in the children's inheritance and/or title on the part of Lady Margaret.
Evidence from several independent sources shows that Alexander Thomson (postmaster in Savannah) and his sons were extremely well connected and that there was always a question about the parentage of Alexander.

The family records that William John Thomson had one son, William Thomas Thomson, who had a son Spencer Campbell Thomson, but there the trail ends. Any leads about the early Thomson family history would be welcomed by the Thomson family.

William John Thomson was originally taken to London where he learned to paint and exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1795 to 1843. He moved to Scotland in 1812 where he painted many miniatures and was elected to the Royal Scottish Academy in 1829.

On 12 May 1797 he married Helen Colhoun in Edinburgh. According to Foskett, he was offered a knighthood, but declined.

In 1832 he painted a miniature of the well known novelist Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) (nee Elizabeth Stevenson) who wrote various books, including "Cranford". Elizabeth Gaskell being the step-daughter of Thomson's sister.

Johnson observed of his work; "His subjects dace slightly to the right; their features are emphatically delineated, the left eye appearing overly large. A pink tonality suffuses the paintings, reddish-brown shading models the forms, and brown hatching often makes up the background."

Although the pink tonality is not as obvious in this example, it can be seen in her face, together with the other characteristics, in the close-up image. William John Thomson died in Edinburgh on 24 March 1845.

One of Thomson's main competitors in Edinburgh in the early 19C was William Douglas. For some examples of his work, see May - Twenty years on the trail of William Douglas

A miniature painter who moved from London to Edinburgh, perhaps to compete in the Edinburgh market in the 1820's, was Henry Daniel Thielcke, although no dated miniatures by him have been yet located from that era. Thielcke moved to Canada around 1830, perhaps because he could not break into the Edinburgh market, see Thielcke, Henry Daniel - portrait of an unknown lady

Other Works by the William John Thomson
In America, examples of his work are included in the Manney Collection at the Metropolitan Museum, in the Cincinnati Art Museum, and in the Carolina Art Association Collection at the Gibbes Museum in Charleston.

There are also examples of his work in British Museums, including the Victoria & Albert Museum and the National Gallery of Scotland.

There are three other miniatures by Thomson in this Artists and Ancestors collection.

One is of John Gloag signed and dated 1814 (please pardon the scanner glare).

The second is of a young lady with a white ruff signed and dated 1820.

The third is of a young lady where the backing paper is missing and so there is no signature, but which has been attributed to Thomson. This miniature probably dates to around 1825. (931, 1213, 1276, 1343).

Thus the four works shown here are later works by him, although they do cover 17 years of his career.

It is a great pity the identities of the young ladies are unknown, as they could well have been as interesting as Charlotte Trotter.

Identifying Charlotte Trotter
The sitter in the miniature is identified, although with a little confusion by two contradictory notes. One very old note is as shown and reads; "On ivory. Portrait of Charlotte Trotter, daughter of William Trotter of Ballindean, Edinburgh. Painted by W J Thomson, September 1831. She afterwards was the wife of Col(onel) Robert Knox of the 6th Bengal Light Cavalry."

The second note was apparently cut from a fairly recent auction catalogue and reads; "Charlotte was the fifth daughter of David Knox, Surgeon of Edinburgh, and Isabel Hepburn. She married Thomas Trotter, a merchant in Edinburgh and had a son William and a daughter St Clair Skene Knox."

However, this second note has been completely discounted after finding the reference to A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great ... - Google Books Result The auctioneer, must have misread the entry, as the book which was published in 1838, notes that the Thomas Trotter who married Charlotte Knox, daughter of David Knox and Isabel Hepburn, was himself born in 1724. Thus that Charlotte Trotter was about 100 years too early to be the sitter in this miniature. However, it seems she was the grandmother of this younger Charlotte Trotter.

The same history comments on William Trotter (1772-16 Aug 1834) as follows; "William Trotter esq of Ballindean, in the county of Perth, born 10 November 1772, was several times member of the town-council of Edinburgh and latterly, in the years 1826 and 1827, elected Lord Provost (i.e. Lord Mayor, and as on the attached board) of the city. To him Edinburgh is indebted for many of its greatest improvements and he was one of the most influential and respected of her citizens. He was deputy-lieutenant, justice of the peace, and commissioner of supply for Perthshire. He married 3 June 1801, his cousin-german (i.e. first cousin), St Clair Stuart, daughter of Dr Robert Knox, physician in London, and had issue."

The Dr Robert Knox (?-1792) mentioned here, was the son of the Dr David Knox referred to in the second, discounted note. As the book concentrates on the male line of British families, in most instances the names, or even existence of daughters, are not mentioned.

However a different reference notes the 1844 marriage of Sarah Jane, the youngest daughter of the late William Trotter of Ballindean, to Charles Baron De Lanchen, Chamberlain to the Elector of Hesse. The use of the term "youngest daughter", rather than "elder daughter" or "daughter" is an indication William Trotter had at least three daughters. See The Annual Register - Google Books Result and more recently, a kind visitor has sent me the extract here taken from Burkes, which mentions Charlotte.

This is confirmed by a reference stating William Trotter had four sons and three daughters, see The Scottish Nation: Or, The Surnames, Families, Literature, ... - Google Books Result although they are not named there.

(Another kind visitor has also advised that the names of the children were; Thomas, William, Francis Skene, John, Charles, St Clair Stuart, Charlotte Knox, and Sarah Jane. The same kind visitor has advised that Charlotte's birth is recorded on 11 Aug 1819, although some records refer to this also as her christening date. Usually christening occurred later than the birth date, sometimes by a year or more, so currently I do not know whether 11 Aug was her birth date or her christening date. In any event, it must be conceded that the sitter in the miniature looks a little older, as based on the 1819 date she would have been 12 at the time of the painting. She may have been painted to look a little older than her age, or alternatively, it may possibly represent her older sister, St Clair Stuart Trotter. Without other portraits to compare, her identity cannot be confirmed. However, the details of the note shown indicate that the writer was familiar with the Trotter family, thus in the absence of any differing evidence, it seems appropriate to continue to regard the sitter as Charlotte.)

Ballindean is a small hamlet in Inchture Parish, Perthshire, half way between Perth and Dundee. William Trotter of Edinburgh purchased the Ballindean property around 1820, from Sir David Wedderburn of Ballindean, Bart. He then substantially extended the property.

In the early 1880's Ballindean House, in Ballindean, then described as "a tasteful modern mansion", was occupied by the Hon Mrs Trotter and included 1175 acres.

(Confusingly, I believe she was the Hon Mary Rollo Trotter (8 May 1897-9 Oct 1886), being the eldest daughter of the 8th Lord Rollo and the widow of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Knox Trotter(7 Feb 1807-1876) of the 17th Lancers, who she had married on 27 Mar 1833. He being an elder brother of the Charlotte Knox Trotter in this miniature who, as outlined below, was to marry Colonel Robert Trotter Knox. The eldest daughter of Robert Knox Trotter and Mary Rollo Trotter, i.e. Agnes Bruce Trotter (?-2 May 1906) on 15 Oct 1857 married John Rogerson Rollo (24 Oct 1835-2 Oct 1916) 18th of Duncrub and the 10th Lord Rollo.)

Ballindean House with its 29 rooms and remaining 26 acres, was purchased as derelict in 1984. It has been renovated as shown in these two images, and is now the home of a pony club, see

All this detail, taken with the names and dates on the old note as illustrated, but subject to the apparent age of the sitter, seems to make it reasonable to conclude that the sitter in the miniature is Charlotte Knox Trotter, daughter of this William Trotter.

Apart from being Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1826/27, this William Trotter is recorded as a cabinet-maker and entreponeur.

No doubt he commissioned and paid for this miniature of his daughter and also miniatures of other members of his family. There must also be some oil portraits of the family, but at present their location is unknown.

The Wedderburns and Abolition of Slavery in Scotland

As mentioned above William Trotter purchased Ballindean as his country home around 1820 from Sir David Wedderburn of Ballindean, the son of a Sir John Wedderburn. In 1828, Sir David Wedderburn was Seputy Postmaster-General and Cashier at the General Post Office in Waterloo Place, Edinburgh. Interestingly, the Wedderburns were Baronets of Nova Scotia, Canada, created in 9 Aug 1704 and of the United Kingdom created in 10 Aug 1803.

Alexander Wedderburn of Kingennie, Co. Forfar, born 1561, was in high favour of the Stuart King James VI of Scotland (showing here in a miniature recently acquired for this collection).

Alexander Wedderburn accompanied James VI to England in 1603 and Alexander was one of the signatories to the treaty for a union between England and Scotland in 1604, when James VI also became James I (1603-1625) of England.

On his return to Scotland next year, James VI presented Alexander with a ring off his own finger, still preserved in the family.

Alexander's descendant was later created a baronet in 1704. See History of the Wedderburn family The bestowing of the Wedderburn baronetcy in 1704, would have marked the resumption of the reign of the House of Stuart, represented by Queen Anne (1702-1714) shown here in a miniature from this collection. She ascended the throne on the death of William III (1689-1702) of the House of Orange, also shown in a miniature in enamel from this collection by Michael Rosse.

The House of Stuart had earlier been deposed when James II (1685-1688) was forced from the throne for being a Catholic.

After he purchased it from Sir David Wedderburn, William Trotter substantially enlarged Ballindean.

Thus Charlotte Trotter would have been living at Ballindean House from around 1820, probably until she was married in 1839. She would have therefore been well aware of the Wedderburn connections, as well as the following three stories, as the name of Sir John Wedderburn was of then recent historic interest on several counts.

Firstly, as most scholars believe the legal movement to abolish slavery in Scotland started in 1778 when a majority of judges in the Court of Session found against Sir John Wedderburn and decided that the law of Scotland could not support slavery.

A black man named Joseph Knight had been brought as a slave from Jamaica to Scotland by Sir John Wedderburn of Ballindean in 1769, and for eight years had sought a determination of his freedom. See Joseph Knight - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia For a recent novel based on the events see the attached book by James Robertson.

Three years later in 1772 a ruling in England (see Somersett's case) cast doubt on the legality of slavery under the common law.

Assuming this applied to the rest of Britain Joseph Knight demanded wages from his owner, Sir John Wedderburn of Ballendean, and ran away when this was refused. When Wedderburn had him arrested, Knight brought a case before the Justices of the Peace court in Perth.

When the Justices of the Peace found in favour of Wedderburn, Knight appealed to the Sheriff of Perth, who found that ‘the state of slavery is not recognised by the laws of this kingdom, and is inconsistent with the principles thereof: That the regulations in Jamaica, concerning slaves, do not extend to this kingdom’.

In 1777 Wedderburn in turn appealed to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Scotland's supreme civil court, arguing that Knight still owed perpetual service, in the same manner as an indentured servant or an apprenticed artisan. The case was important enough that it was given a full panel of judges including Lord Kames the important legal and social historian.

The case for Knight was helped in preparation by James Boswell and Samuel Johnson. Their argument was that 'no man is by nature the property of another'. Since there was no proof that Knight had given up his natural freedom, he should be set free.

Lord Kames said 'we sit here to enforce right not to enforce wrong' and the court emphatically rejected Wedderburn's appeal, ruling that ‘the dominion assumed over this Negro, under the law of Jamaica, being unjust, could not be supported in this country to any extent: That, therefore, the defender had no right to the Negro’s service for any space of time, nor to send him out of the country against his consent: That the Negro was likewise protected under the act 1701, c.6. from being sent out of the country against his consent.’

Essentially Knight succeeded in arguing that he should be allowed to leave domestic service and provide a home for his wife and child. See also Joseph Knight case - The National Archives of Scotland

Any website visitors wishing to read more about miniature portraits in this collection which are connected with slavery in Britain, should see the story of an English slave trader's widow at Hargreaves, Thomas - portrait of Esther Watson Tobin

Secondly, the Wedderburn family were even less successful in other causes they supported in the 18C, as Sir John Wedderburn's father, also a Sir John Wedderburn was captured at the Battle of Culloden in 1745 where he was acting as a lifeguard supporter of Bonnie Prince Charlie and was then executed on 26 Nov 1746.

The woodcut shown here was taken from a silhouette projected by candle-light onto paper by the daughter of one of Sir John's gaoler's, the night before his execution.

For a letter written to his wife hours before he was executed, see Letter from Sir John It commences "My Dearest, Be the time this comes to hand I shall be no more. I hope God who has given me patience to bear with a great many hardships hitherto will support me to the last.......,"

Thirdly, the executed Sir John Wedderburn had been the son of Sir Alexander Wedderburn, 4th Baronet, who was deposed from his office as clerk of Dundee for his part in the 1715 Stuart uprising.

It appears that recent Wedderburns have had more luck with their causes, as it seems the estates of the family were inherited by the heir of line now represented by Henry James Scrimgeour-Wedderburn, and Wedderburn and Birkhill, Hereditary Royal Standard Bearer of Scotland.

William Trotter - Cabinet-maker and Lord Provost
William Trotter, the father of Charlotte was, and still is, recognised as the leading Scottish cabinet-maker of the early 19C. The firm of Young, Trotter, and Hamilton dominated the Scottish cabinet-making market from 1730-1830.

Auction catalogues from Christie's and Sotheby's frequently include furniture attributed to him.

At the current time, i.e. mid 2008, the firm of Millington Adams has for sale (at the attached fine Scottish Regency figured mahogany linen press attributed to William Trotter of Edinburgh.

It is described as; "The moulded cornice over a flame mahogany frieze, with a pair of panelled doors below opening to reveal a fitted interior of five original mahogany linen slides. The bottom half with an arrangement of two over three graduated, oak lined cock beaded drawers, retaining the original unusual gilt brass rectangular drop handles. The press stands on shaped bracket feet. This piece is in remarkably fine condition, and is of the highest quality throughout; it appears that it has had minimal use during its 190 or so years at Blairquhan.

William Trotter was born into a family of merchants in 1772, descended on the maternal side from the family of John Knox, he became a member of The Merchant Company in 1797 and by 1809 he was sole proprietor of the firm Young & Trotter. In 1819 (some references say this was in 1809) he was elected master of The Merchant Company and from 1825-27 he was Lord Provost of Edinburgh. In 1814-15 he furnished the library and picture gallery which the architect Robert Reid had added to Paxton House for George Home. Trotter continued to trade from 9 Princes Street (the site on which the 'Balmoral Hotel' stands today) until his death in 1833. He was regarded as the perhaps the most eminent of all Scottish cabinet makers. Trotter was a great rival of James & Mathew Morrison who supplied the majority of furniture for Sir David Hunter Blair at the newly renovated Blairquhan House. This piece was apparently documented in the house archives as one of the few pieces at Blairquhan made by William Trotter
Provenance: Blairquhan House, Ayrshire commissioned by Sir David Hunter Blair from William Trotter of Edinburgh
Price: £6,750
Origin & Age: Scottish, Regency, George IV, circa 1820

Auction catalogues include these examples of recent sales of items of furniture attributed to William Trotter.

Some items of William Trotter's furniture have sold for high prices. A set of three caned library bergere chairs, plus one modern replacement, in mahogany and dating from 1814 were purchased by the British Art Fund in 2003 for £18,164 each (Total: £46,707) at Christie's.

They were described as: "These Grecian-scrolled library bergeres have incised 'tablet' rails and truss-pillared arms with volutes enriched with paterae en suite with the legs. They formed part of a set of four mahogany caned Library chairs supplied in 1814 for George Home's Library at Paxton House, Berwickshire by William Trotter of Prices Street, Edinburgh, at a cost of £7.70 each. The current set has one modern chair.
Provenance: George Home; by descent to Helen Milne Home; Christie's 2003."

A major commission for William Trotter in 1811 was the library and painting gallery (showing here) at Paxton House at Berwick-on-Tweed. The history of this house is interesting.

Some sources state that Paxton House was purchased by Frederick the Great and gifted to Patrick Home who had fallen in love with Sophie de Brandt, the illegitimate daughter of Frederick the Great, after Patrick's mother had threatened to disinherit Patrick if he moved to Germany to marry Sophie.

Patrick was en route back to Prussia and Sophie in late 1751 when news reached him that his mother had been murdered by the butler in one of the family houses. As a result he had to return to Scotland to take over the estate and attend the trial, without being able to see Sophie again.

Other sources, just say that Patrick envisaged the house as a home fit for Sophie. In the event, they did not marry, but Patrick Home retained the house. At one time, it held the greatest collection of antique furniture in Scotland, with furniture by Chippendale as well as by William Trotter.

Frederick the Great is shown here in a mid 18C miniature by Jude Low Pinas from this miniature portrait collection, still in its original mid 18C silver frame, see Pinhas, Jude Low - portrait of Frederick the Great

For more about Paxton, see Friends At Paxton House - A Magnificent Stately House Set In The ...

William Trotter was also the Lord Provost present at the laying of the foundation stones of the Western Approach and the George IV bridge on 15 August, 1827.

See also a magazine titled "The Journal of The Furniture History Society XIX", Haywards Heath 1983, by Bamford, F. which includes "A Dictionary of Edinburgh Wrights and Furniture Makers 1660-1840" and also includes;
-Appendix I: William Trotter's estimate for furnishing No. 3 Moray Place, Edinburgh for Sir Duncan Campbell of Barcaldine, 1825.
-Appendix II. Summary of the will and inventory of William Trotter, Esq. of Ballindean, who died 16 August 1834(?).

John Knox - the Founder of Presbyterianism

The reason for the name Knox to be prevalent in Carlotte Trotter's family is that on her father's maternal side, some sources state Charlotte was descended from John Knox (1515-1572) who was a leading Pastor and teacher in Scotland, in England and in continental Europe.

However, it seems unlikely she was a direct descendant of the 16C John Knox, as that John Knox seems to have had three daughters, but no sons. (A kind visitor has since advised me the descent was from William Knox, the brother of John Knox.)

John Knox was a leading figure in the Scottish reformation of the 16th century and is regarded as the founder of the Presbyterian Church. See John Knox - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Charlotte and her Family
Thus, Charlotte Knox Trotter came from a highly regarded family living in Edinburgh and with a proud history.

From July 1837, Births, Marriages, and Deaths (BMD) had to be officially recorded in Britain. This has enabled the location of her marriage, which is believed to be recorded as Charlotte Knox Trotter, daughter of William Trotter, marrying Robert Trotter Knox on 7 Mar 1839 at St Cuthbert's in Edinburgh.

It seems Robert Trotter Knox was already based in India, as he is recorded as a lieutenant in the 6th Bengal Regiment of Light Cavalry, see The Bengal directory and annual register - Google Books Result

Robert and Charlotte appear to have been cousins and must have left for India not long after their wedding. A kind visitor has found a reference that reveals Charlotte and her husband sailed to Calcutta from England on the ship "Robert Small" captained by J.P.Scott and arrived there in December 1839. The same visitor found that Robert wrote a will which was recorded in 1844.

Traces of Robert Trotter Knox and Charlotte Knox have been found in India, where they had a daughter, St Clair Stewart Knox who was born on 30 Apr 1840 at Sultanpore, Benares, West Bengal, India and a son, Frances Arthur Skene Knox who was born 23 Apr 1841, also at Sultanpore, Benares, West Bengal, India.

It seems likely there were other children, as there is a 12 Mar 1861 reference to a Captain Robert Trotter Knox exchanging from the 90th Regiment of Foot to 2nd West India Regiment and, given the same name, he may well be a son born around 1840. See Bulletins and Other State Intelligence Compiled and Arranged from ... - Google Books Result and an 1863 reference which states he joined the army as an ensign on 15 May 1855, was promoted to Lieutenant on 13 July 1855 and to Captain on 26 Sep 1858, see Hart's Annual Army List, Militia List, and Imperial Yeomanry List - Google Books Result This same Captain Robert Trotter Knox is referred in the Edinburgh Evening Courant of 1 Dec 1867 as retiring on temporary half-pay on 28 Dec 1866.

By coincidence, also on 12 Mar 1861 and in connection with the 90th Regiment of Foot, and at the same 12 Mar 1861 reference above, there is the comment: "Brevet-Lieutenant-Colonel Garnet Joseph Wolseley promoted without purchase, to an unattached majority." Lord Wolseley later became Commander-in-Chief of the British Army and he is represented in that rank, in a miniature portrait held as part of this collection, see Unknown - portrait of Lord Wolseley

Colonel Knox and the 6th Bengal Light Cavalry
Reverting to Colonel Knox, the old note pictured above refers to the 6th Bengal Light Cavalry. As there is often confusion between "regular" and irregular" cavalry, the background to each branch is covered here.

Regular Cavalry - Bengal Light Cavalry
The regular cavalry established by the East India Company relied on the patronage of Indian rulers. In 1760 the first troops of Moghul Horse (rissalahs) to be raised were commanded by Sirdar Minza Shahbaz Khan (1st Horse) and Sirdar Khan Tar Beq (2nd Horse) and a third was raised in 1765. All three were disbanded in 1772.

Then in 1776 there were two regiments raised for the Nawab Wazir of Oudh and a third in 1776. The first two were disbanded in 1783 but the third continued as a troop for a while. A troop of Pathans was formed in 1778 and called the Kandahar Horse, then in 1783 this and the third troop were raised up to regimental strength.

When the British Army formed its own cavalry, the third troop above became the 1st Regiment of Light Cavalry and the Kandahar Horse became the 2nd Regiment.

A third and fourth regiments were raised in the mid 1790s, four more in the early years of the 19th century and two more in 1825. The 11th was the last to be raised as late as 1842. The officers were British and the other ranks were Indian but all were dressed in British style uniforms as with the example here, except for the other ranks' head-dress. All these cavalry regiments were disbanded during the Indian Mutiny.

1st Bengal Light Cavalry
2nd Bengal Light Cavalry
3rd Bengal Light Cavalry
4th Bengal Light Cavalry
5th Bengal Light Cavalry
6th Bengal Light Cavalry
7th Bengal Light Cavalry
8th Bengal Light Cavalry
9th Bengal Light Cavalry
10th Bengal Light Cavalry
11th Bengal Light Cavalry

Irregular Cavalry - Bengal Irregular Cavalry
The Bengal Irregular Cavalry units were distinct from the Bengal Light Cavalry regiments. This can more readily be seen by their red uniforms

At first the irregular units were called Local Horse and were raised by Europeans from volunteers who owned their own horse and equipment and were prepared to provide for themselves in the field.

This was called the sillidar system. Sometimes a local leader called a sirdar would bring a whole group of horsemen and act as their officer within the regiment. The firearms and ammunition would be provided by the regiment. By the early 1900s the system was regulated so that a recruit did not need to bring a horse, but paid a cash equivalent. He also had a monthly amount deducted from his pay for replacement of worn-out kit, and which acted as an insurance against his horse getting killed.

In the early days, uniform were not very military but the colour of the alkalak or kurta was regulated as was the colour of the turban and kummerbund to make members of each regiment recognisable, especially necessary in the heat of battle.

The difference between regular and irregular cavalry was very obvious, apart from the uniforms. There was much stricter discipline in the regular cavalry and the standard of intelligence there tended to generally be lower. The irregular cavalry appealed to men of free spirit and thus attracted British officers of like mind.

The Impact of the Indian Mutiny of 1857

After the 1857 Indian Mutiny, the regular army regiments disappeared and the irregulars formed the nucleus of the cavalry taken over by the crown from the East India Company. By the end of the 19th century, the cavalry were smart disciplined units but still retained the sillidar system.

The brief history of the 6th Bengal Cavalry is that it was raised at Fatehgarh in 1842 by Lieutenant W H Ryves as the 8th Regiment of Bengal Irregular Cavalry, then in:

1861 reformed as 6th Regiment of Bengal Cavalry
1883 reformed as 6th (the Prince of Wales) Regiment of Bengal Cavalry
1901 reformed as 6th (Prince of Wales) Bengal Cavalry
1906 reformed as 6th King Edward's Own Cavalry
1922 reformed as 18th King Edward's Own Cavalry
1950 reformed as 18 Cavalry of the Indian Army

Their first action was in 1843 during the Gwalior Campaign in central India for which they earned the battle honour Punniar.

In 1845 the regiment was involved in the First Anglo-Sikh War and participated in the Battle of Moodkee the Battle of Ferozeshah and the Battle of Sobraon

In the 20C, the 18 Cavalry Regiment participated in battles in France, North Africa, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and Burma in the two World Wars and other campaigns.

In the defence of India, it fought in the Sialkot (Pakistan) and the Ganganagar sectors in the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pakistan Wars respectively. For its distinguished record, 18 Cavalry has the proud privilege of being awarded 29 battle honours, which is the second highest number awarded to any unit of the Indian Army.

An impressive number of personnel of the Regiment have been decorated for gallantry and sacrifice, principal amongst which are 3 Victoria Crosses, 46 Indian Distinguished Service Medals, 24 Indian Orders of Merit and 2 Vir Chakras. As recently as 1991, the 18 Cavalry regiment featured on this postage stamp from India.

Given the old note referring to Colonel Robert Knox of the 6th Bengal Light Cavalry, it seems Colonel Knox was with the Bengal Light Cavalry, not the Bengal Irregular Cavalry, but may have been Colonel of the Regiment around the time it was reformed as the 6th Regiment of Bengal Cavalry in 1861.

To clarify this and for more details of Colonel's Knox's career it would be necessary to follow him via the National Archives, Family history | Indian Army which comments; "The Indian Army was the successor to the East India Company armies from 1859 and existed until the partition of India in 1947. The East India Company had administered India until 1858, through three Presidencies - Bengal, Madras and Bombay each with its own army. These armies consisted of British regiments and Indian regiments commanded by British officers. Service records for officers and soldiers of the East India Company armies are held in the British Library Asia, Pacific and African Collections."

Later history
Investigation is continuing into Charlotte and her family, to see if the family was affected by the 1857 Indian Mutiny, but with some difficulty.

Her daughter St Clair Stewart Knox referred to above and who was born on 30 Apr 1840 at Sultanpore, Benares, West Bengal, India returned to England and seems not to have married. She can be traced through the English census records. In 1871 she was lodging as an "Officer's daughter" in Marylebone, London. In 1881 she was a teacher of French and German in Bristol, the entry is hard to read, but possibly she was Landlady". In 1891 she was living "on her own means" in Bristol and had a nurse living with her as a servant. Thus she may have been in bad health.

Her son, Frances Arthur Skene Knox who was born 23 Apr 1841, also at Sultanpore, Benares, West Bengal, India has not yet been located.

Young Trotter

William Trotter had an elder brother named Young Trotter. The above entry prompted an email from a helpful descendant of Young Trotter and as part of it refers to William Trotter and Charlotte Trotter's ancestors, the email is repeated here for any interested researchers. The descendant also kindly provided these images of Young Trotter and his wife Jean Cranston and also two old images of Ballindean House shown above.

"Very interesting site you have set up. A distant cousin sent me the link for "The Case of the Cabinet-Maker's Daughter" - as we are both doing family history research and the Trotter family is one of our family lines.

When I first saw the site - due to the name - I thought the miniature was of one of my direct ancestors with the same name - another Charlotte Knox Trotter who was the daughter of Young Trotter - who was a brother of William Trotter - Cabinet Maker and Lord Provost of Edinburgh.

Young Trotter - was the Young Trotter of the Chirnside Paper Mill that operated under the name of Young Trotter & Son. The Paper Mill is still in existence and is owned by Ahsltrom - a Finnish Company. The Mill still has the original stone facade built in 1842 - and the old family home has been restored and is used as boardroom and offices. I have photos of paintings of Young Trotter and his wife Jean Cranstoun - William Trotter's brother and sister-in-law.

In addition to the father of John Knox being an ancestor of the Trotter family - Burke's Landed Gentry (1838 and 1898) indicates that the Trotter family of Ballindean are descendants of the Trotter family of Morton Hall - "This family is a branch of that of Morton Hall". I contacted the current Chief of Trotter - Alexander Richard Trotter of Mortonhall and Charterhall - and he indicated that a genealogist in the 1950's concluded that if there was a direct family link between the Trotter families of Morton Hall and of Ballindean - then it goes back earlier than the 1600's or was from illegitimate offspring.

Other ancestors of William's sister-in-law Jean (Cranstoun) Trotter (wife of William's brother Young Trotter) include:
- Hay family of Yester/Tweeddale - descendants include the current Marquess of Tweeddale
- Hay family of Erroll - descendants include the current Earl of Erroll
- Kings Robert II and III of Scotland - ancestors include the early Kings of Scotland and England - the early High Kings of Ireland - Roman Emperors Constantine the Great and Charlemagne - Saint James the Just the First Bishop of Jerusalem (1-85 AD). Descendants of Kings Robert II and III of Scotland include Queen Elizabeth II.

I have an old handwritten family tree (1940's) that shows the family lines back to:
- the William Knox - the father of John Knox and
- Anne Hay who married George Cranstoun of Dewar & Harvieston - after further research I discovered that the family lines back from Anne Hay - lead to the Hay of Yester/Tweeddale and Erroll and Kings Robert II & III of Scotland and so on ...

This handwritten family tree includes William Trotter and his children - the sons by name and a notation that he had three daughters.

There is also a note on the tree as follows "There are miniatures at Ballindean of Thos. Trotter & Charlotte Knox" - the parents of William and Young Trotter. I sent an e-mail to the Ballindean Teen Ranch - asking if they knew anything about the miniatures and they did not reply - so I have not yet been able to locate the miniatures.

I have also tried to do some detective work to identify who painted and who was painted in a few old Hay family paintings - and also who is included in old photographs of ancestors in Canada. Unfortunately - as you have seen the living relatives know who the subject is - so tend not to make any notation that would help future generations."

Much later - April 2016
Another very kind researcher has provided some interesting comments about the Trotter family as below:

Dear Don,
I stumbled upon your post ( concerning the Trotters of Ballindean. Fantastic article!

I'm a researcher for the Abernyte Parish Heritage Group - Ballindean House is on the border of our Parish with Inchture, and Lt. Col. Robert Knox Trotter (son of cabinet-maker William) owned many properties in the Parish of Abernyte.

We are currently researching a claim made in 1969 by the then-owner of Ballindean house, a Mr. Walter Campbell, who informed the Royal Commission of Ancient and Historic Monuments that "(Robert Knox Trotter) was outlawed to the French Court where his wife had an affair with Napoleon III in Paris and they had a daughter.The mother and daughter returned to Ballindean."

A very difficult claim to prove or disprove. Mr Campbell emigrated to Australia and died in 1981. I have an address for his son's last-known-whereabouts in Western Australia which I may try writing to.
  • His claim is potentially reliable - Robert Knox Trotter definitely lived (presumably with wife, Mary Rollo) at "Avenue Josephine, Paris" (source: the Obituary of daughter St. Clair Stuart Knox Trotter")
  • Two of his children died in Brussels in 1849. (source: newspaper obituaries for both)
  • His children (with the exception of St. Clair) had "normal" names - William, Agnes Bruce, Mary Stuart - and then, Hortense Napoleon Louis Trotter appears! Hortense of course being the mother of Napoleon III - Queen Hortense de Beauharnais.
  • Hortense was christened at Inchture, but appears not to have been born there. The wording of the certificate is ambiguous, however.
I can't find anything concrete about the Napoleon III claim. What a family! There's no particular point to this email - I would just like to say I enjoyed reading your article immensely and it has offered a number of details previously unknown to us!

Anyone able to add to this claim is very welcome to add a comment to the blogpost.



Anonymous said...

I am very interested in your site and concur with the knox/trotter lineage you state.
My great great grandfather (Richard Cross) married Charlotte Knox at the British Consulate in Antwerp in 1855 (information from Old Bailey on line records where Charlotte Knox was accused of drawing a widows pension from the East India Company after she had re-married).
She thus became Charlotte Knox Cross and they lived in London for many years. She died a widow in Leamington Spa 1891.
Many thanks for the portrait information.

Don Shelton said...

Thank you very much for the information about her second marriage.

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog post,

My Knoxs are of Kilbirnie and vaguely related, but good work.

Anonymous said...

Hi Don,
I have just come across your blog and am very interested! I lived and worked at Ballindean House for 5 years with Teen Ranch. I notice you said that you emailed them and had no reply. Is this still the case? I am more then happy to contact them for you or let them know if you are interested in contacting them again. I don't remember anything about the miniatures but I really wasn't too interested in the history at the time. I have since been delving into it and hence came across your site. Anyway, let me know if I can be of any help.

Don Shelton said...

Hi Andrea,
I am glad you found the blog interesting. By all means draw the attention of Teen Ranch to what I have written, and I would welcome any further information they would like to add. However, I think Ballindean was empty when they went there, so the miniatures etc would have been long gone at that stage. Regards, Don

Robin Macdonald said...

Dear Don Shelton
> I have been researching a Trotter family tree which goes back to a Robert Knox Trotter born 23 March 1800 and baptised 1804 (the son of a Robert Knox Trotter who must have died in 1803), who married Harriet Augusta Kirk on 5 Oct 1826 in St. Dunstan's, Stepney..
> The descendancy lines are well documented and include an eldest son Robert Kirk Trotter, a very gifted man whose obituary appeared in the Musical Opinion & Trade Review of 1st January 1907 on page 309. It includes a photograph of him which bears an extraordinary resemblance to the portrait of John Knox which was shown in your article on William Trotter the cabinet-maker of Edinborough.
> However, I can find no information at all about the life or death of the senior Robert Knox Trotter apart from his marriage to Pamelia Diana Maria Peake in Westminster 1799 as recorded in Pallot's Marriages. Following the christening of her two young sons Robert Knox Trotter and John Samuel Trotter (b. 17 March 1803) on the same day 29 February 1804 at the Ebenezer Chapel in Market Street, Mayfair, she married a William Williamson on 26 Oct 1804 at St Georges, Hanover Square.
> I have been unable to make a connection to the William Trotter of Ballindean family (whose Lt Col Robert Knox Trotter was not born until 1807), and have been looking at the possibility that his elder brother Robert Trotter (b. 28 April 1762 to Thomas Trotter, merchant of Edinborough, and his wife Charlotte Knox) might have adopted Knox as an additional name to his baptismal one.
> I thought you might be intrigued by the likeness of the faces, and wonder if you may be able to help this enquiry, or possibly put me
in touch with anyone who may be better acquainted with Trotter
lineages of this period.
> Yours sincerely
> Robin Macdonald

Anonymous said...

Dear All, my Knoxes landed in Co Durham in the 1850s having starved in Antrim, and possibly Londonderry en route from the Paisley area, where I understand Knox to be the family name of the Earls of Ranfurly. Anyone know of Ranfurly's connection with cleric John Knox and the Lothian Knoxes mentioned in this excellent tale of Trotters, etc?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have more information about the the charges against Charlotte Knox in 1857 regarding her claiming widow's pension from the East India Company after she 'married' Richard Cross. I know that he disclosed his first marriage at that time to ensure that she was not convicted. He was later charged (two years later) with 'feloniously marrying' Charlotte when he already had a wife. Does anyone have information about when/if Richard and Charlotte were legally married?

jock burns said...

hi 1st time on here, i found the site while trying to do research on some headstones ive found last weekend 160+ years old, hiding under bushes weeds and falling trees. one of the stones have the name Mary inscribed on it and says she is the wife of Richard Trotter esq and she was the daughter of a General Sir John Oswald G,C,B.. G,C,M,G of Mortonhall (Edinburgh) b,2oct 1771 d,8june 1840...I HAVE 2-3 PHOTOS of the stones as the stones look like the are lost or disowned i have writing to national heratige to see if they are aware of the headstones and have the area cleaned up..looks like they were important people in there time i think they may be of interest to somebody on this site please e-mail for photos i will reply asap 13/4/12

Anonymous said...

I believe a bust in the Government Art Collection by sculptor Samuel Joseph (1791-1850) may represent the Hon. Mary Rollo Trotter, wife of Robert Knox Trotter (see: The bust is dated 1833. In that year Joseph exhibited a marble bust of 'Mrs. Trotter of Ballindean' at the Royal Academy. He exhibited no further busts of female sitters for three years. The work also bears a resemblance to a miniature of 'The Hon. Mrs. Trooter', painted by Miss Annie Howard, after Sir William Charles Ross and sold through Phillips on 12 July 1999.

Don Shelton said...

Many thanks for the information about that sculpture. I have had a look and to me she does appear to be the same person as depicted in this miniature, - despite the change in hairstyle between 1831 and 1833!

Soxtory said...

I am descended from William Trotter, born 1760-1770, emigrated to Virginia from Scotland before 1800, married Sara King, unsure if it was before or after he arrived in Virginia.

Enjoyed this blog very much!

William Vernon Trotter
New York

Unknown said...

I came across blog when I was researching a Colonel Trotter living in Paris
in the 1860's and a close associate of Napoleon 111. He also had a connection
with Ballendean as in the data I have someone has written the words and music
of a song Ballendean in Italian. He also had a connection in Paris with a famous Italian Physicist and one of the great Italian Clarinet players.
I am still having problems identifying my Colonel Trotter.
I found your blog very interesting and will continue in the hope I work out who is who.

Many thanks
John Melrose.

Unknown said...

John Melrose - I'd very much like to get in touch with you. Please drop me a line at ally(dot)nicoll(at) if you see this message! Thanks.