Memoirs of a Highland Lady: “Duchess of Sussex”

Ramsgate, Kent

“Duchess of Sussex”

Lady Augusta Murray

Mrs. Peter Grant had taken a house for us on the East Cliff, a very fine situation with a splendid sea view. We were at some distance from the town, a sort of Common all round us, and one house only near; it was indeed attached to ours, the two stood together alone, out of the way of all the rest of Ramsgate. Our neighbor was Lady Augusta Murray, called by her friends the Duchess of Sussex, although her marriage to the Duke, which really did take place abroad, was null in this country. She had been created Baroness D’Ameland, and had a pension settled on her of £3000 a year, on which to bring up her two children, a boy and girl, fine, large, handsome young people, unduly imbued with the grandeur of their birth. She never committed herself by calling herself or them by any title: ‘My boy, my girl,’ she always said in speaking of or to them. The Servants, however, mentioned them as the Prince and Princess, as did all the acquaintances who visited at the house. Prince Augustus was about 17, extremely good looking, though rather inclined to be stout; very good natured he was too, amiable and devoted to his mother. He was going into the army under the name of D’Este, a bitter pill to the Duchess, although it was one of the royal surnames, and had been chosen for his son by the Duke himself. Princess Augusta was some years younger than her brother though she looked nearly as old. She was but 12, and particularly handsome on a large scale, a fine figure, and fine features, with a charming expression of countenance. The Duchess’s house was small, though larger than ours, for she had turned the whole ground floor into one room, a library and built a dining room out behind. The drawing room floor was her own apartment, containing bedroom, sitting room, and her maid’s room; the floor above was equally divided between her son and daughter. She kept no horses, for she never drove out. She passed most of her time in a very large garden, well walled in, which covered a couple of acres or more, and extended all down the slope of the cliff to the town. Our two families soon became intimate, the younger ones especially passing the greater part of the day together, a friendship beginning then which never entirely ceased while the opportunity served to bring any of us together. The advances, however, were amusing. The Duchess, as a royal personage, must be waited on. My Mother, who was very retiring, would not take such a step forward as the leaving her name at the great lady’s door. My father, who had bowed, and been spoken to when gallantly opening gates, could do no more without his wife; so all came to a full stop. Meanwhile, Jane and I, who had made acquaintance out of the free Common of the downs with the little Princess, untroubled by any notions of etiquette, enjoyed our intercourse with our new acquaintance amazingly; Jane and she soon becoming fast friends. One evening she approached the paling which separated our two small gardens just as my Mother was stepping over the gravel towards the carriage to take her airing. I shall never forget the picture; she leaned on the top rail, her large leaved Tuscan hat thrown back off her dark close cropped hair, and her fine countenance brightened by the blush of girlish modesty, while she held up a small basket full of fine peaches, an offering from her mother. A visit of thanks was of course necessary, and found agreeable. A few days after the Duchess bade Jane tell her Mama that she had returned her call when her Mama was unluckily out, and that she hoped they would be good neighbors. On this hint we all acted. We never expected H.R.H. to call nor even believed in the reported first call. My Mother occasionally went in there with some of us. My father constantly; indeed, he soon became her confidential adviser in many of her difficulties, trying to get her through some of the troubles which harassed her existence. We were all made very happy by this addition to our Ramsgate pleasures; we liked the place itself and our life there, and above all we liked our neighbors.

From Wikipedia:

Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex

Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (27 January 1773 – 21 April 1843) was the 6th son and 9th child of King George III and his consort Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. He was the only surviving son of George III who did not pursue an army or navy career.

While travelling in Italy, the prince met Lady Augusta Murray (1768–1830), the second daughter of the 4th Earl of Dunmore. The couple secretly married in Rome on 4 April 1793. The King’s minister of Hanover affairs Ernst zu Münster was sent to Italy to escort him back to London.

The couple married again without revealing their full identities at St George’s, Hanover Square, Westminster, on 5 December 1793. Both marriages took place without the consent, or even the knowledge, of his father.

In August 1794, the Prerogative Court annulled the prince’s first marriage on the grounds that it contravened the Royal Marriages Act 1772, not having been approved by the King. However, Prince Augustus Frederick continued to live with Lady Augusta until 1801, when he received a parliamentary grant of £12,000 and the couple separated. Lady Augusta retained custody of their children and received maintenance of £4,000 a year. Their two children were named Augustus Frederick d’Este and Augusta Emma d’Este, both parents being descended from the royal House of Este. In 1806, their mother, Lady Augusta, was given royal licence to use the surname “de Ameland” instead of Murray.

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

‘I was born on the 7th May 1797 of a Sunday evening at No. 5 N. side of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in my father’s own lately built house and I am the eldest of five children he and my mother raised to maturity.’ Thus opens one of the most famous set of memoirs ever written. Since its first bowdlerised edition in 1898, they have been consistently in print. This is the first ever complete text. Written between 1845 and 1854 the memoirs were originally intended simply for Elizabeth’s family, but these vivid and inimitable records of life in the early 19th century, and above all on the great Rothiemurchus estate, full of sharp observation and wit, form an unforgettable picture of her time. The story ends with the thirty-three-year-old Elizabeth finding her own future happiness in marriage to an Irish landowner, Colonel Smith of Baltiboys. ‘A masterpiece of historical and personal recall.’ Scotsman


Memoirs of a Highland Lady

2 thoughts on “Memoirs of a Highland Lady: “Duchess of Sussex”

  1. I have decided that I want a “large leaved Tuscan hat “. I googled this. I’m sure I could find a pattern to make one.

    Loved this thank you.


  2. I had wondered what became of Lady Augusta. Though the marriages were invalidated by the royal marriage act and the children deemed illegitimate, Augustus, the husband, didn’t remarry until some years after Augusta’s death. He again married without permission but Victoria forgave it and granted his wife her own title. After Sussex died, his son went to court to be named his father’s heir, but was again declared illegitimate. The weddings made valid marriages in the eyes of the church , but were invalid under law.
    Nothing in history would have been changed if the son had been legitimate as Augustus only had a slight chance at succeeding to the throne once Victoria was born and his chances became slimmer with each child Victoria bore.


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