Last week on Austenesque Reviews, I posted about finding what is likely a typo but looks as though the 3rd Earl Fitzwilliam and his wife waited until after their first born daughter was born to marry. I used it in part to inspire my Lady Catherine in No Cause to Repine. I’ve always been a fan of hunting history. I get sucked down research rabbit holes quite often. I’d like to imagine myself as the JAFF Indiana Jones, Ben Gates or even Robert Langdon. We’ll let the jury decide on that later.
I thought I’d talk a bit more about the research I found while I was writing the book. Having already done some light research on the actual Earls Fitzwilliam, I chose to model my Lady Catherine’s husband off Thomas Dundas, 1st Baron Dundas. He married the 3rd Earl Fitzwilliam’s second daughter, Charlotte in 1764.
Lord Dundas was the only son of Sir Lawrence Dundas, 1st Baronet Dundas. The family’s wealth first came from supplying the British Army goods during the Jacobite wars and the Seven Years’ War. Then, Sir Lawrence invested in banking. He was a major backer of the Forth and Clyde Canal, which ran through his estate in Scotland. The nearby village of Falkirk became a prominent location for steel and iron industry. The canal, an important means of shipping goods before the railway, brought wealth to Falkirk.
The family was very wealthy. Lawrence Dundas purchased Aske Hall near Richmond, North Yorkshire (not to be confused with the Richmond near London) in 1763. He immediately made improvements with the help of Capability Brown and John Carr. Then he purchased Moor Park in Hertfordshire. Moor Park’s grounds had just been renovated by Capability Brown in 1752, under the direction of then owner Admiral Lord Anon, but the visiting Horace Walpole shared a very Elizabeth Bennet-like opinion of the place, “I was not much struck with it, after all the miracles I had heard Brown had performed there. He has undulated the horizon in so many artificial molehills, that it is full as unnatural as if it was drawn with a rule and compasses.” Sir Lawrence also improved his London house with the designs of architect Robert Adam and furniture designer Thomas Chippendale.
Thomas Dundas was elevated to Baron Dundas in 1794 and seems to have followed his father’s interest in canals and ship building. In 1800, he hired engineer William Symington to make improvements to his failed model of a steam powered ship. Despite successful tests, other investors worried about wave damaging the banks of the Canal. Symington made more improvements, this final model being named after one of Thomas’s daughters, Charlotte. A model was shown to the Duke of Bridgewater, and he was so delighted by the prospect that he ordered eight similar ships for his own canal (the Bridgewater Canal, where Symington’s earlier model failed). However, the Duke died shortly after this request was made, and nothing came of it. In 1803, The Charlotte Dundas completed successful trials in the Forth and Clyde Canal, with Lord Dundas and his family aboard it, but other investors still worried about bank corrosion and would not continue to fund the project. It left Symington quite out of pocket.
For my story, of course, the surname is de Bourgh, not Dundas. I also kept Lady Catherine’s husband as a baronet, but I heavily borrowed from the Dundas family history of wealth and Lord Dundas’s interest in steamships. I also had Sir Lewis de Bourgh lose considerable money on the investment, not just the engineer. For a woman born under a scandal, to a wastrel of a father and as the progeny of an earl and marquess, Lady Catherine soon regretted her marriage to a mere baronet who offered her no financial security, thus creating the bitter and blind woman she became.
I’ve got other nuggets, but I’ll save them for a later post on my blog. So, while I am not quite journeying to exotic lands and finding the Holy Grail a la Indiana Jones or even Robert Langdon, nor have I found priceless artifacts like the Scrolls of Alexandria like Ben Gates, I still think I’m a bit of a history hunter. And this story is much more interesting than the time I spent three hours and involved several other people trying to figure out how a second son inherited a title when the eldest son lived and was never declared insane, all for me to realize that my source did not list the off spring in chronological order, but rather by earliest known death date! Well, sometimes you lose the prize, and sometimes you win the prize. The prize for me is an actual rabbit worth using at the end of my hole.
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