Anne, Mrs Wharton

Have you ever heard of the 17th century poet and dramatist Anne Wharton? No, neither had I.

The only work published during her lifetime was an elegy to her uncle John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester. After her death there was a short period during which her work was celebrated, but after that she was largely forgotten until in 1997 when Germaine Greer and Susan Hastings edited a publication called The Surviving Works of Anne Wharton.

The younger of two daughters, Anne was born on July 20, 1659 after the death from smallpox of her father Sir Henry Lee, 3rd Baronet of Ditchley, Oxfordshire.  She was baptised at All Saints Church, Spelsbury, Oxfordshire and her mother died just ten days later. The two little orphaned sisters were raised by their paternal grandmother, Anne Wilmot, Countess of Rochester.

Anne Mrs Wharton

Anne, Mrs Wharton

In 1664 Anne, Countess of Rochester, was appointed Groom of the Stole to Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, the first wife of the King’s brother James. Until the death of the Duchess in 1671 Anne Rochester spent much of her time at court with her two little granddaughters in tow. A court described as “extravagantly and exhibitionistically licentious” by Greer and Hastings,

Anne and Eleanor received an education befitting their status, possibly joining the Princess Mary for French lessons at Court. They would have received lessons in music, dancing, writing and needlework and Anne was known to have spoken Italian.

When not at Court, the Countess of Rochester remained living at the  home of her first husband, Sir Francis Henry Lee, in Ditchley with her extended Lee and Wilmot family.

By 1665 the sisters were living at the newly repaired and restored Wilmot family seat, Adderbury House, which had suffered under the occupation of parliamentarian troops during the Civil War.

The original house was small and Anne Wilmot remodelled the property in 1661 on which she is said to have spent £2,000. In a 1665 tax assessment there were 14 hearths recorded in the property and an inventory drawn up in 1678 lists Great and Small Halls, Drawing Room, Great Room above stairs, Great Square Chamber, Lesser Dining Parlour and eleven other rooms, excluding the offices.

Aged just 12 and 10 years old, Eleanor and Anne bought their first property under the supervision of their trustee Sir Ralph Verney, a 40 acre estate called Chelsea Park. The sisters had inherited a considerable fortune from their mother, Anne Danvers, making them each a very marriageable proposition.

Anne St John, Countess of Rochester

Anne St John, Dowager Countess of Rochester

An entry in the parish registers of St Mary’s, Adderbury on September 16, 1673 records the marriage of the Honble Thomas Wharton Esq., eldest son of the Lord Wharton and Anne Lee, the younger daughter of Sir Henry Lee. Thomas was 25, Anne just 14 years old.

The minimum legal age at which a girl could marry in England was then 12 years old, although in practise this was unusual.

Anne’s husband Thomas Wharton had already earned a reputation as a rake and even her uncle, the licentious John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester was horrified that his mother was brokering a marriage with the profligate Whig politician, but perhaps Rochester had his own agenda.

Charles II wanted Anne to be married to a member of the Arundell family. Richard Arundell, 1st Baron Arundell of Trerice had served in the Royalist army during the Civil War and had fought at Edgehill and Lansdowne. He was raised to the peerage after the Restoration in recognition of the support he and his father had given Charles I. It was probably Richard’s son John the King had in mind for Anne.

But Lady Wilmot had set her sights on the fortune of Thomas Wharton. The irony of this is that Anne brought a dowry of £10,000 to the marriage and an income of £2,500 a year. On her death she left everything to Wharton.

Wharton was believed to have infected his young wife with syphilis, the great scourge of the 17th century, but Anne’s death sentence may have already been delivered before her marriage.  After her death in 1685, her brother in law, Goodwin Wharton, wrote an explosive autobiographical expose. The manuscript was never published but is held by the British Museum.

Goodwin claimed that he had had an affair with Anne but that he had not been the only one. He wrote of how before her marriage (remember, aged 14) Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough, would bribe a servant to admit him into the bedroom Anne shared with her sister. He also claimed that Anne had ‘lain with long by her uncle, my Lord Rochester.’ It would seem likely that Anne had been abused and assaulted before her marriage and the candidates for infecting her with syphilis were several.

What kind of person was she? John Carswell author of The Old Cause: Three Biographical Studies in Whiggerism published in 1954, described her as a ‘demure, pious child’ while other accounts of Anne’s character have been somewhat derogatory and inaccurate and recorded to enhance the reputation of her husband. Considering her prominent position in court life she is something of a shadowy figure, seldom noted at social events when it could be safely assumed she was present. The only continuing interest in her appears to be in that of the inheritance she shared with her sister Eleanor, a battleground between their husband’s families and their grandmother Anne Rochester.

Copyright Lydiard House / Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

John Wilmot, 2nd Earl Rochester

There was evidence of Anne’s frail health even before she married. In August 1672 she went to Bath to take the treatments where she stayed for three months, a particularly long time which would have cost a considerable amount of money. Aged thirteen and just months before her wedding, Anne was suffering from a very sore throat. She soon began to experience problems with her eyes and in 1678 travelled to Paris for treatment. Two years later she returned to Paris suffering for convulsions (involuntary muscle spasms) which increased in frequency and severity.

Greer and Hastings propose a number of theories concerning Anne’s ill health, and make a convincing case that she was infected with syphilis long before her marriage to Wharton. However, they point out that her symptoms could also be attributable to epileptiform seizures, tuberculosis and even as a consequence of her medical treatment where mercury was commonly used.

Anne’s last days were spent wracked by convulsions and in great pain. She died at Adderbury on October 29, 1685 aged just 26 years old. She was buried in the Wharton family vault beneath the Chancel at St Mary Magdalen, Upper Winchendon.

Anne left £3,000 to Hester, John Wilmot’s daughter by the actress Elizabeth Barry, the rest of her fortune she left to her husband.

Thomas Wharton succeeded to the title Marquis of Wharton in 1715, some 30 years after Anne’s death. Anne’s correct title was therefore plain Mrs Wharton, not Marchioness of Wharton as she is frequently called in books and articles and which has caused confusion between other women named Anne in the Wharton family.

Even during her lifetime Anne enjoyed an extensive critical readership and the admiration of a network of professional writers including among them Aphra Behn. The first collected edition of her works was published in 1997 by Germaine Greer and Susan Hastings and in 2004 more work was discovered including 11 poems previously unknown.

Copyright Lydiard House / Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Sir Walter St John

So what is the connection to the St John family, although I’m sure you have probably worked it out by now. In the summer of 1664 Eleanor and Anne accompanied their grandmother on a visit to Lydiard Park where they stayed with Lady Rochester’s younger brother Sir Walter St. John. Sir Walter had been one of the trustees acting on behalf of the young Anne Lee during the marriage arrangements. Anne’s grandmother, Anne Wilmot, Countess of Rochester was the daughter of Sir John St John 1st Baronet, and his wife Anne Leighton who lived at Lydiard Park.


The Surviving Works of Anne Wharton edited, with textual notes and commentary, by G. Greer & S. Hastings published by Stump Cross Books 1997

Charlotte Calvert, Lady Baltimore

How does Maryland, one of the Thirteen Colonies on the Eastern seaboard that came together to form the United States, have a connection with the St John family from Lydiard Tregoze in Wiltshire?

Lady Charlotte Lee was born on March 13, 1678 (Old Style) at St James’s Park at the house acquired for her parents by her grandfather Charles II. Her mother was Lady Charlotte Fitzroy, Charles’s favourite daughter by his mistress Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine. Her father was Edward Henry Lee, 1st Earl of Lichfield. Charlotte, who was the eldest of some 20 children, was born when her mother was fourteen years old and her father fifteen.

Lady Charlotte Lee

Many online sources describe this portrait as being of Lady Charlotte, but it is more reliably believed to be that of her grandmother Barbara Villiers, Countess Castlemaine.

In 1699 Charlotte married Benedict Leonard Calvert. It was his great grandfather, George Calvert, who founded Maryland as a safe haven for persecuted English Catholics in 1632. Cecil Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore (Benedict’s grandfather) was granted a Charter for the new colony to be named Maryland in honour of Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I.

However, the Calvert’s lost their Maryland inheritance in 1688 when it became a Royal Colony following the events of the Glorious Revolution and the accession to the English throne of William and Mary.


Benedict Leonard Calvert, 4th Baron Baltimore

Within a year of their marriage Charlotte had given birth to the first of at least six children, including a set of twins. In these still turbulent religious times Charlotte’s father, the Catholic Earl of Lichfield, had endeavoured to steer his daughter along a purely Protestant path. However, after the birth of her first son in 1699 Charlotte converted to Catholicism.

Charlotte and Benedict separated in 1705 after an unhappy and abusive marriage. Salacious rumours circulated citing his cruelty and their mutual infidelities. It was said Charlotte had born a child in 1706 by her lover Colonel Robert Fielding, who was at the time bigamously married to Charlotte’s grandmother Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine.

In 1711 Benedict’s petition to Parliament for a divorce from Charlotte failed. He died four years later having only months before succeeded to the title of 4th Baron Baltimore on the death of his father. Having claimed her title of Lady Baltimore, Charlotte quickly remarried.

Her second husband was the entrepreneurial Christopher Crowe who held a diplomatic post in Italy while also acting as an agent acquiring works of art for the English nobility.

The couple married in Geneva in August 1715 but made their home at Woodford Hall, a property set in parkland with surrounding woods and farmland on the edge of Epping Forest. Charlotte had four children by her second marriage – Christopher, Catherine, Charlotte and George.

In a post nuptial agreement drawn up in 1719 Christopher declared the property in trust for his lifetime and after that to his wife the Rt Hon. Charlotte, Lady Baltimore for her lifetime but sadly Charlotte would only live another two years. She died at the age of 42, some sources say from rheumatism, others from arthritis.

In the 19th century Woodford Hall was the childhood home of poet and political activist and arts and crafts legend, William Morris. Demolished at the beginning of the 20th century the Woodford Parish Memorial Hall in Woodford High Road stands on the original site, next to St Mary’s Church where Charlotte was buried in 1721.


Washington Monument Mt. Vernon, Baltimore – From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

The Maryland Colony was restored to the Calvert family’s control by George I, and Charlotte’s eldest son Charles inherited the title to Maryland aged just fifteen, on the death of his father and grandfather. He held the office of Proprietary Governor from 1732-1733.

In 1727 Charles appointed his younger brother Benedict Leonard Calvert (Charlotte’s second son) Governor, an office he held until 1731. Leonardtown is named in his honour.

Charlotte’s third son, Edward Henry Calvert held the office of Commissary General and President of the Council of Maryland and the Calvert/Maryland continued through to the next generation (more to follow).


The three surviving daughters of Sir John St John 1st Baronet and his wife Anne Leighton kneel at the feel of their parents’ memorial.

But, have you worked out the St John, Lydiard Tregoze connection? Well actually there are two! On her maternal side Charlotte was the granddaughter of Barbara Villiers, Countess Castlemaine who in turn was the granddaughter of Barbara St John (d1672) of Lydiard Tregoze. Charlotte’s father, Edward Henry Lee, was the grandson of Anne St John (1614-1696). Anne was Barbara’s niece, the daughter of her brother Sir John St John 1st Baronet. A portrait of Barbara hangs in the State Bedroom in Lydiard House. Barbara also appears on the St John Polyptych in St Mary’s Church and Anne is one of the kneeling figures on her parent’s tomb. Both memorials were commissioned by Sir John.


The six St John sisters.