Thursday, December 01, 2005

Catherine Sedley

On becoming king James had broken off his affair with Catherine Sedley as a moral example to the court, doing the decent thing by setting her up with her own house in St James's Square (no. 21), the house formerly occupied by his former mistress, Arabella Churchill. But three months later, the earls of Rochester and Dartmouth, contrived her return to favour, in the hope that she would be a protestant counterweight to the king's Catholic advisers. By a patent of 20 January 1686, James created her baroness of Darlington and countess of Dorchester for life.

The queen was appalled and made her distress obvious when she next appeared in public. The Catholic advisers, led by the king's chaplain, Bonaventure Giffard, took the hint and demanded that the countess be banished. James almost immediately gave way. Withdrawing first to St James's Square, she refused to go abroad and, as a compromise, agreed to go into internal exile in Ireland. As a generous pay-off, she was granted an annual pension of £3000 to last until 1691, when she was promised quit-rents worth £5000 per annum from extensive estates in Ireland. On arrival in Dublin she found it ‘intolerable’ and the Irish ‘mallincoly’. In August 1686 she returned to England, on the pretext of taking the waters at Tunbridge Wells, whereupon the king discreetly resumed their affair. (Information taken from the New DNB)

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