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A picture for Downside and Mrs FitzHerbert

ON THIS DAY 27th. MARCH in 1837 Mrs Maria Anne FitzHerbert died. She was a Catholic, and a Grand daughter of Sir John Smythe Bart. Of Acton Burnell, Shropshire. Born on the 26th July 1756, as a daughter to Walter Smythe of Brambridge, Hampshire. When she died aged 81 she was buried at the Church of St.John the Baptist in Brighton. In 1775 she first married Edward Weld of Lulworth. After he died in a riding accident, she in 1778 married Thomas FitzHerbert. Later, on the 15th September 1785 she again ‘married’ Prince George Hanover, who was to become Prince Regent and then King George IV of England. As their Park Lane marriage was conducted without the permission of the then King, it was deemed to be unlawful. The Pope accepted its ecclesiastical validity, but he neither recognised the Hanoverian succession until the death of the Old Pretender, James Edward Stuart in 1766. nor specifically the Kingship of George 111 until 1799 a date some fourteen years after Mrs FitzHerbert’s ‘marriage’ to the Prince. It was the aforementioned Sir John Smythe Bart. Who in 1794 invited Monks then being expelled from Douai at the times of the terrors in France, to re- establish themselves and their school at his Acton Burnell House in Shropshire. There from School Records are sparse but do mention one pupil named Edward Joseph Smythe, and later another named Robert Pope who entered the monastic novitiate in 1813, thus presumably becoming one of the first novices at what was to become Downside Abbey when the Community moved to Mount Pleasant, Downside, Near Bath in 1814. Maybe I should look into that monk’s ancestry in the hope of claiming kinship to such a pioneering spirit. The Community throve at Downside not only building its great Abbey Church but developing its 1604 Douai and Acton Burnell Educational foundation, into one of the newly fashionable English Public Schools. One may wonder what brought all this information to mind. It was just that Mrs FitzHerbert of Oriental Place in Brighton was an early customer of our family business established in London in 1799. Seeing cause to mention the matter in a different context, thought to research her ancestry further. It was only then that I became aware of her birth family’s connections to this community of Monks, because although the name Smythe is still revered at Downside, I never heard tell of his grand daughter during my time at the school. Last week one visited Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk where the National Trust recently hung a portrait of ‘Lady Arundell of Wardour’, for she had married into the Paston Bedingfield family, the prior owners of the house. The family of the heir to the Baronetcy still resides in a wing there of. Maybe it would inspire the Pupils at Downside were a portrait of Maria Anne Smythe hung in its Gasquet Hall. Top picture s of Mrs FitzHerbert, that below is of the wrongfully maligned Queen Caroline Consort to Kng George IV 26th.March 2010.

A picture for Downside and Mrs FitzHerbert

contact : John B. Pope
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