Correspondence from Lady Charlotte Finch and Harriet Finch

Scope and Content

Lady Charlotte Finch née Fermor (1725-1813) was the Royal Governess to George III's and Queen Charlotte's children. She was the daughter of Thomas Fermor, 1st Earl of Pomfret, and Henrietta Louisa née Jeffreys, who were both courtiers. In 1746 Charlotte married the Hon. William Finch (1691-1766), Vice-Chamberlain of the Household, 1742-65, and they had four daughters and one son. In 1765 Charlotte's husband became senile and he died on 25 December 1766.

Finch was appointed governess in 1762 on the birth of the Prince of Wales. She ultimately became responsible for the eight princes, until they moved to their own establishments with their own governors, and the six princesses until they reached the age of twenty-one. She was also in charge of a number of staff made up of sub-governesses, such as Mary Hamilton, assistant governesses and personal attendants. Her teaching was advanced for the period and her methods and theories became increasingly fashionable. She taught a diverse curriculum which included both arts and sciences alongside more creative subjects. Finch remained in her position as governess for over thirty years and continued to receive her salary even after she retired. Harriet (Henrietta) Finch (1751-1818) was a daughter of Charlotte Finch.

Included amongst the letters are two letters written by Lady Finch to Hamilton's friend and fellow governess, Martha Goldsworthy (see HAM/1/14), and also letters from Hamilton to Lady Finch.

The correspondence in this sub-subseries relates to Hamilton's position as sub-governess to the Royal children at Court including her appointment and her day-to-day instructions. The letters also relate to more general news: Finch writes about her family, literature, Hamilton's as well as her own health, and her own interest in the study of botany. She also conveys messages to Hamilton from the princesses and other members of the Royal family. She writes of the Princess Royal's first appearance in the 'Drawing Room' and Ball (HAM/1/12/33) and of how the King's birthday was celebrated, and on Prince Alfred who looks so 'charming' that she cannot resist writing about it (HAM/1/12/42). She notes how 'tenderly' she feels towards Hamilton and speaks of their friendship. Finch also discusses the King and Queen and mutual acquaintances such as the Duchess of Ancaster and Lord Shelbourne.

HAM/1/12/29-32 are written from Caldas in Portugal and are concerned with 'Mrs Fielding's tragedy'. Sophia Fielding (HAM/1/7/5) was the daughter of Charlotte Finch. Finch was in Caldas with her son, Lord Winchilsea, who was there recovering his health. Sarah Fielding had been travelling to England from Lisbon on the Mercury when it was captured by an American ship. Mr and Mrs Graham (Hamilton's cousins) were also aboard the same ship. She reports that the Mercury was chased for 12 hours before being captured and all on board have now been taken to Spain and that Mrs Fielding is now making her way to Caldas. The letters continue on the 'miserable' conditions that the Grahams and Fielding find themselves in Spain as they wait for passports. They will have to travel via land and Finch notes that although she is happy that Mrs Fielding has not been carried off to America, she will not settle until her daughter is back with her. (In HAM/1/1/18, Finch reports that Fielding arrived safely in Caldas.)

In HAM/1/12/72 Hamilton writes to Charlotte Finch in Caldas with news from Court including a message from the Prince of Wales and an anecdote about Princess Mary. She notes that the King and Queen had been to the theatre to see the Beggar's Opera but they did not consider it appropriate for the princesses to attend. She also writes a detailed account of the Ball held to celebrate the Prince of Wales's birthday.

Many of the letters in this sub-subseries relate to Charlotte Finch's Royal charges. She writes on their health, with messages to and from them, on their looks and personalities. Finch also writes about the death of Prince Alfred in 1782 aged only 2 (HAM/1/12/46-9), describing how she has put into an envelope all that remains of the Prince's hair for the Queen. The body of her 'dear little Royal Charge' was given into the care of General Carter and his men. Finch adds that the prince is now in 'endless happiness' and it is only those left behind that are left in pain (HAM/1/12/49).

The majority of the items from Harriet Finch are undated and relate in the main to her friendship with Hamilton, organising to call on her and attending the Opera.

Arrangement

The correspondence has been arranged by author in chronological order with undated items placed at the end of the sequence unless dates could be inferred from their content, context or physical characteristics.