John Ferdinand Smyth-Stuart


John Ferdinand Smyth: loyalist and liar

by Anthony Camp

[as published in Genealogists' Magazine, vol. 31, no. 11 (September 2015) 404-414]

In the night of Sunday, 15 October 1775, during the confused and bitter 'disturbances' occasioned by the American War of Independence, a young man calling himself John Ferdinand Smyth, much disliked in the area for his outspoken British sympathies, left his home in Charles County, Maryland, and took a boat with five servants and 'a very considerable property' (or so he claimed) to Port Royal, making his way to Norfolk at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay to offer his services to the hated Lord Dunmore, Governor of Virginia.

Doctor in the Army

At Norfolk he agreed to go with Lieutenant-Colonel John Connolly, who called him 'Dr Smyth' and intended to make him surgeon of his regiment, on an expedition into the Ohio Valley. Connolly was himself a doctor and thought Smyth 'a man of quick penetration' … 'obnoxious to the republican party' and 'incapable of temporizing'. Their aim was to enlist support from other loyalists and eventually to divide the Southern Colonies from those in the North [Note 1].

However, only a week later Connolly's small group was captured at Hagerstown in Maryland and its intentions became known. Smyth was imprisoned at Frederickstown where he complained of the German guards' 'dissonant jargon of corrupt high Dutch', but escaped in December only to be captured ten days later at Little Meadows in Western Maryland and dragged, or so he said, '700 miles in triumph bound, hand and foot, subsisting only on bread and water', back to Frederickstown. His pathetic letter to the Continental Congress in April 1776 attempted to explain that 'lamenting this unhappy and unnatural contest, and wishing to avoid being active on either side, I endeavoured to remove to my lands I have on the Mississippi, in West Florida', but, being prevented by events, he went to Norfolk 'with the intention (I own) to join his Majesty's arms'. The letter was signed 'John Smyth' but as 'Dr John Smith' he was charged with 'practices inimical to the liberties of America', put in irons and kept in solitary confinement [Note 2].

In December 1776, fearing that the British might attack Philadelphia, Smyth was marched to Baltimore, he said 'in irons for 150 miles at bayonet point until his boots were filled with blood', but he again escaped in January 1777, claiming to have rowed a canoe with others to a British ship eighteen miles out in the Atlantic before being taken to New York. There he received a commission as Captain in the Queen's American Rangers. He was present at the Battle of Germantown in October and then engaged in recruiting for the British near Philadelphia where he mustered at the end of November. [Note 3]

At New York over Christmas 1777 Smyth produced a highly coloured Narrative or Journal (1778) of his experiences, in which he abused the 'deluded and mistaken' American 'rebels' and magnified his loses, saying that after his capture his property had been confiscated and sold, and that it included twelve slaves and servants in Maryland, fifteen in Virginia, twenty-five horses, fifty cattle, a hundred sheep and 140 hogs [Note 4]. He had a facile pen and was adept at writing stirring Loyalist ballads and songs [Note 5].

The Queen's Rangers were encamped at King's Bridge on the Harlem River from July 1778 and from there he married at Hempstead on Long Island, 23 October 1778, the Army Chaplain officiating, one Abigail Lefferts, though against the wishes of her father, Leffert Lefferts or Haugewout, a man of Dutch descent who was warden of the local church [Note 6]. Smyth was absent on leave at musters in August and October 1778, but was present in February 1779. However, on Long Island in May 1779 he brought court-martial proceedings on various grounds against the Commander of the Rangers, the highly-regarded Lieutenant-Colonel John Graves Simcoe, and was shown to be untrustworthy and to have a 'virulent and malignant temper', his charges being dismissed as 'Malicious, Frivolous, Vexatious, & Groundless'. Simcoe said that Smyth 'avoided military service whenever possible' and that Smyth's men, to whom he was an unpleasant bully, disliked serving under him [Note 7]. Smyth was summarily dismissed from the Army, a court martial being refused him. He was described as 'sick in quarters' at a muster on 24 June 1779 and early in 1780, pleading ill-health, he deserted his now pregnant wife and returned to England. He was placed on half-pay during the War but excluded from half-pay when the War ended in 1783 [Note 8].

His claims examined

In London the commissioners appointed to assist loyalists who had suffered as a result of the conflict gave Smyth a temporary allowance of £100 a year, doubling that amount in 1781 and increasing it to £300 in 1783 when his appeal to the Privy Council to be granted Long Island in the Bahamas as partial compensation for the claimed loss of land in America, was rejected [Note 9]. He was claiming to have possessed in Virginia and Maryland 3,300 acres, 30 slaves, 59 horses, 2 schooners, 5 boats, etc., altogether worth £31,582 [Note 10].

In order to bolster these claims Smyth unwisely published a highly coloured account of his experiences under the title A tour in the United States of America (2 vols. 1784) and he came to the attention of a wider audience, for London was swarming with Americans, 'grumbling and discontented' [Note 11]. The book was described by John Randolph, of Roanoke, as 'replete with falsehood and calumny' and the commissioners, with testimony from several refugees who had known Smyth in America, became increasingly suspicious.

The books and bundles of papers resulting from the work of the commissioners were, it was said in 1915, 'in such a state of decay that they cannot be used', but their substance was revealed that year with the publication of the notes of one commissioner, Daniel Parker Coke, who had made summaries of the evidence given in 1783-5 [Note 12]. The papers remained largely inaccessible but were in 1957 the subject of a lecture at the Society of Genealogists by Roger Ellis then Head of the Repairing and Binding Section at the Public Record Office who was engaged on their rearrangement [Note 13]. Much new material had come to light and microfilms of those papers relating to Smyth's claims were obtained by Harold Bell Hancock, Professor of History at Otterbein College in Ohio, and were the subject of an article in the Maryland Historical Magazine in 1960 [Note 14]. They not only destroyed all Smyth's pretensions to ownership of property in North America but provided a quite different account of his earlier history there. If his fellow Loyalists felt any sympathy for him it was entirely lacking in their depositions.

Robert Nelson, formerly of Halifax, North Carolina, who had known Smyth for more than twenty years, said that he had come to Halifax 'when not grown up' and had worked for one Peter Copland as an assistant in his store  [Note 15]. Nelson believed that Smyth had been indentured [Note 16]. He only stayed two years and when he left, Nelson as his surety gave Copland £20 to defray the expenses of Smyth's coming to America. Smyth was arrested and bailed by Nelson who thought him 'ill-used' by Copland. Over the next few years Smyth had worked as a storekeeper for John Thompson and for William Black. He had then been employed for less than a year by Frederick Schulzer a doctor at Halifax as a tutor to his children. When Nelson heard that Smyth had left to practise physic as a doctor 'it was a joke amongst the Neighbors'. In 1770 he was at Fredericksburg, Virginia, and for a short time practised there but in 1772 or 1773 he moved to St Mary's County, Maryland, on the Potomac River and boarded with James Mills at Chaptico. Uriah Forest said that Smyth came on an old horse, Smiling Tom, and had no property other than his horse and saddlebags 'unless he had money' but he was 'not a man of substance'. He practised medicine but was asked to leave as a troublesome fellow. His next landlord Mr Barber sued him for non-payment of board. He then rented a plantation from Mr Balthrop and was again sued for non-payment. Nelson said that Smyth 'had always a trick of shooting from a long bow', i.e. of lying, and Robert Buchanan described him as a 'notorious liar'. John Anderson, of neighbouring Charles County, in which Smyth had rented a plantation by 1774, said that he had 'no great business', doubted that he owned any slaves, was sure that he owned not a foot of land, and would not have trusted him with a shilling. His horse Smiling Tom was twenty-five years old and worth less than thirty guineas. Smyth, Anderson said, had in 1775 left his plantation, which was taken over by Mr Philpot one of his sureties, 'on account of his circumstances & not on account of the troubles'.

Smyth himself said at his questioning by the commissioners in May 1784 that he was 'bred to Physic & was at one of the Scotch Universities' and that he went from London to Virginia in 1763 intending to practice medicine, but did not 'fix himself' until 1768. He said that he 'did not carry out much property' but had purchased an estate at each place he stayed. When it was suggested to him that the 'rebel' Samuel Chase, whom he had said had been a member of the committee of safety which robbed him at Frederickstown, might confirm his story, Smyth exploded haughtily, 'I thank God I am not yet humbled so low, nor would I consider life itself as worth such a purchase'.

Smyth's evidence was read over to him the following day and he was warned to reply to questions about his landholdings 'with great caution' and he swore positively that he was not their tenant but their owner. With clear evidence to the contrary, 'he was very strictly interrogated' and expressed himself 'extremely hurt' by the questioning, but then proved, as Coke wrote, 'that the first account … of the Maryland & the Virginia property was perfectly false & that he was the owner of neither of them'. Indeed there was a judgment against him for £2,500 resulting from a libel case brought by the daughter of Jane Apperson in whose house in Virginia he had lodged. The girl had charged him with being 'connected with' her mother and he had shown friends a reply expressing surprise at the accusation as he was already 'connected with' herself!

On 21 June 1784 Smyth's property claims were pronounced fraudulent and his allowance was discontinued. On appeal the commissioners remarked that Smyth was a Loyalist 'which is all the good we can say of him', but on the 'Principle that the greatest Criminal ought not to be permitted to starve untill he is brought to public Punishment' and although he was guilty of 'gross & wilful perjury', Smyth was given a temporary allowance of £90 a year and placed on half pay as a reduced Captain of the Queen's Rangers [Note 17].

From other sources we learn that as 'John Ferdinand Smith' he had become a charter member of Buffalo Masonic Lodge, Bute County, in December 1766, but on his first attendance, 20 November 1767, had been fined for unspecified 'misbehaviour'. His employer Dr Schulzer had been the first Master of a Lodge established at Halifax in 1765 [Note 18], and had died, surgeon in Chowan County, at New York in 1771 [Note 19. In February 1769 George Tassie had taken action against Smyth for a debt of £10-15-10 and obtained an order for the sale of appropriate goods [Note 20].

John Anderson's evidence that Smyth left his plantation 'on account of his circumstances' and not because of the War was proved entirely correct when late in 2014 two abstracts of Bills of Sale from the Charles County, Maryland, Land Records were posted on the Internet [Note 21]. They had been recorded on 17 October 1775, the first at the request of Benjamin Philpot and Ann More and the second at the request of David Philpot and Ann More, just two days after Smyth left home. The first, dated 29 September 1775, shows that Smyth acknowledged owing £1,000 to Ann More and £60 to Benjamin Philpot, for both of which debts he had received value. Now he gave them the outstanding debts on his account books, his cattle, hogs and half his sheep, several horses, mares and colts, his furniture and trunks, a bookcase of books, six medicine cases, the plantation tools, a small boat and a silver watch. Two weeks later on 13 October 1775 in acknowledgment of a further £600 owed to David Philpot and Ann More he gave them his 'chestnut stallion named Smiling Tom', other horses and mares, sheep, sows, the crop of wheat then standing, a gun, some pictures and a china bowl.

The Bills of Sale, seemingly prepared in a hurry and including everything of value that Smyth possessed, together listed ten mares, three horses and eight colts. In the accounts submitted to the commissioners he reckoned that his annual income besides cropping had included £500 from his medical practice and £200 from the breeding and sale of horses [Note 22]. He was heavily in debt, but he was giving up his whole livelihood, perhaps in fear of his life and perhaps with neighbours taking advantage of the situation. An escape into the Army may well have appeared to have advantages. It is as well that he did not know what the future held in store.

Later Life

Captain Smyth's ignominious dismissal from the army and his lies to the commissioners remained generally unknown in England and this undoubtedly encouraged him to continue with his financial claims. With pressing debts (including £160 for the publication of the book) Smyth had not been able to resist speaking about the diet that he and his wife lived upon, drinking only water and 'table beer', though his deserted wife and the child had been four years with her father on Long Island, the Dutch settlers of which Smyth had described in his book, though noting that many were opulent, as 'constantly inveloped in dirt and nastiness ... their houses and food … often rendered almost intolerable with filth and uncleanness' [Note 23].

In September 1785 he migrated to Jamaica to practice medicine but after only sixteen days returned to England, saying that a hurricane had destroyed his property [Note 24]. He was apparently for a while in Paris [Note 25] but the following year, on returning from Jamaica, was arrested at Plymouth and jailed a year for debt [Note 26]. In 1791 he sent a lengthy memorial about his financial claims to the Treasury and at a levee in December 1792 he personally handed a similar petition to the King, followed by yet another to the Treasury in 1793. In the first he asked for sufficient assistance to 'enable him to send to America for his two children and to maintain his family here' [Note 27]. Their number, like much else, had increased with the telling. Old Smiling Tom was now 'an extremely valuable imported stud horse ... for which I have often refused 600 guineas' and which, he said, earned him 500 guineas a year [Note 28]

In 1795 in great financial difficulty and having adopted the surname Stuart he obtained the post of assistant barrack-master at St Domingo and went to the West Indies accompanied by a new 'wife', Eunice Gray, thirty years his junior, and her cat Gypsey![Note 29]. They returned via America in 1797 where he had made contact through his daughter, now seventeen, with his real wife (who did not die until 1828), meeting her in New York and claiming to have written to her on several occasions but saying that she had not replied.

Back in England he was again imprisoned for debt in 1801 [Note 30], but having lived with Eunice for ten years and had four children [Note 31], he married her in September 1803 calling himself Smyth Stuart (marrying her again as Smyth in 1806) [Note 33] presumably as a prelude to an appointment as barrack-master at Billericay in Essex with five shillings a day. There in 1805 he was badly beaten by the militia because the barracks were in a ruinous state [Note 33]. Simcoe having safely died in 1806, Smyth in 1807 published copies of his lengthy petitions and exaggerated claims, all of which had been ignored. The proceedings of the perjuring Commissioners were, he wrote, 'contrary to law, justice and truth' and aimed solely at injuring him [Note 34].

That year he also produced a violent diatribe against vaccination, one of his children having died from its effects [Note 35]. Whilst in the West Indies he had claimed to have discovered a cure for yellow fever, saying that it was 'merely a bilious fever' [Note 36],] and in 1809 he patented a substitute for Peruvian bark [Note 37] which he said could be extracted in England, but his attempt to raise a capital of £50,000 with which to develop it unsurprisingly met with no response [Note 38]. He had moved as barrack-master to Landguard Fort in Suffolk but late in 1812 or early in 1813 he was again in prison for debt, this time at Ipswich, and was visited by the poet Elizabeth Cobbold who helped to raise funds for his release. She wrote that his repeated misfortunes and disappointments had 'excited an irritability' which 'occasioned excesses of temper that lost him many friends and causes him to view events through such an exaggerating medium as aggravated his real sufferings' [Note 39].

In 1814 he resigned his position at Landguard Fort intending to settle as a physician in London but one night a month later in Bloomsbury Square he was hit by a carriage and trampled under its horses [Note 40], dying from his injuries two weeks later on 28 December 1814, aged 67, and being buried at St Marylebone [Note 41]. The perceived injustice of his position remained uppermost in his mind and a hasty will made on his deathbed bequeathed 'all my claims on Government and all the several sums due from it to me' to Eunice. However, his estate was sworn at 'Under £100' [Note 42]. Those who had listened to his stories and wrote his obituary in the Monthly Magazine called him 'Major' and 'Doctor of Medicine' and wrote that he claimed 65,000 acres valued at £244,000 [Note 43]. He had been appointed a Major in Jamaica in August 1785 'in that Island only' [Note 44] and was there sixteen days. The account of his military exploits did not mention the court martial. No record of a degree has been found.

From his age at death and burial Smyth was probably born in 1747 which means that he emigrated at the age of sixteen or seventeen, but his Report to the Secretary at War in March 1803 gave his age as 57 [Note 45] which suggests a birth about 1745-6. The obituary said that he had been educated 'amid the Grampian hills' but had 'removed to Aberdeen' and 'attended the lectures of Dr Gregory' [Note 46]. His neighbours in Maryland believed that he had studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and had come to America about 1769, settling at Williamsburg as a physician and later 'ingeniously farming some six hundred acres of good land on the Maryland side of the Potomac' [Note 47]. This was the story accepted by the old Dictionary of National Biography [Note 48], which said that Smyth was compelled to abandon his home, that 'The republican opinions of the colonists were obnoxious to a loyalist, while their barbarous manners were repellent to a gentleman', and that his pension was suspended in 1784 'on some insinuations secretly made against him'. The new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004) followed much the same line but with more temperate wording [Note 49].

Claimed background and ancestry

The 1784 commission had shown that Smyth was an unprincipled and arrogant liar with a high notion of his own importance, but was there something more behind his claims? His stories and the reasons for my interest in this man centre on a claimed double descent from James, Duke of Monmouth the illegitimate son of King Charles II who led an uprising after his father's death and was executed in 1685. Smyth asserted that his father, named only as 'R. Wentworth Smyth', was the son of the Duke and Henrietta, Baroness Wentworth (1660-1686), and that his mother, Maria Julia Dalziel, was the granddaughter of Major General James Crofts (c.1679-1732), the eldest known illegitimate son of the Duke by his mistress Eleanor Needham.

Smyth thus believed that he had a descent in the male line from Charles II and a year after the death of Cardinal Henry Benedict Stuart and calling himself 'Ferdinand Smyth Stuart, the Nearest Descendant', he published Destiny and Fortitude: An Historical Poem: In Sixteen Elegies: Being a Detail of the Misfortunes of the Illustrious House of Stuart (1808) describing the family as 'the most ancient, the most illustrious and the most unfortunate in the world' [Note 50]. In this he again extoled his services but he avoided, in his notes to the poem, to provide the date and place of any event in his family history.

Monmouth was himself the illegitimate son of King Charles II and Lucy Walter, about whom there was a persistent rumour, which the King himself was forced publicly to deny, that they had married and that Monmouth was their legitimate son [Note 51]. Smyth would have none of that and wrote that they had married 'both at her father's house and afterwards at Cologne in Germany' or 'in Cambria's land, and in Cologne no less' [Note 52]. The historian George David Gilbert supposed that Smyth's account was 'probably tradition handed down from both his father and mother' but discounted the possibility of a marriage in Wales and noted that the King was not at Cologne until 1654, after Monmouth's birth [Note 53].

Smyth liked to think that Monmouth's marriage to Anne Scott, Countess of Buccleuch (1651-1732) in 1663, had been forced upon her and was thus illegal, and that Monmouth had legally married his mistress Henrietta Wentworth. Unfortunately, Monmouth when speaking of Henrietta on the morning of his execution in 1685 had told Archbishop Tenison that 'he had no children by her; but he had heard it was lawful to have one wife in the eye of the law, & another before God' [Note 54]. Smyth, who later received some financial support from Monmouth's legitimate descendants, then thought it politic sometimes to concede that 'His wife indeed she was, but not in law' [Note 55].

As for Henrietta's possible children by Monmouth, his biographer Allan Fea could only find a passage in the memoirs of Thomas, Earl of Ailesbury, written about 1729 and thus many years after the events, saying that Henrietta was supposed to have had children but he (Ailesbury) surmised that they had died in infancy [Note 56]. However, relying on Smyth Stuart's story and ignoring Monmouth's statement to the archbishop, Fea went on to state that Monmouth 'undoubtedly left a son by her (born in 1681), who was adopted and educated in Paris by Colonel Smyth'. In a later work Fea noted that the French Ambassador in London, Paul Barillon, had written to Louis XIV ten days after Monmouth's execution, saying that, 'The opinion of the King of England is that the wishes of Monmouth are to support Mme Vinton [i.e. Wentworth] by whom he has a child', and Fea discusses Henrietta's illnesses and possible dates of birth of children [Note 57], seemingly unaware that Smyth had said that his father was two years old at Henrietta's death and was thus born in 1683-4. It should be noted that Monmouth's regular mistress Eleanor Needham had the last of their four children, called Henrietta, in 1682-3 [Note 58]. Henrietta Wentworth had returned to England before the end of 1685 in 'a most lamentable state of health' and continued very unwell until her death in April 1686, aged 25, it was said of a broken heart, though Henry Savile wrote that it was through painting her face with white lead [Note 59]. If she had a child in 1683-4 it was presumably born in the Netherlands.

Ferdinand Smyth Stuart claimed that his father 'R. Wentworth Smyth' was Henrietta Wentworth's child and had been adopted by a 'Colonel Smyth' who had taken him to Paris, given him his name and bequeathed him his fortune. This 'Colonel Smyth' was (he said) Monmouth's 'aid-de-camp in Flanders in the service of France' [Note 60]. That would have been in 1672-3 and seems to be an attempt to associate his father with Colonel Sir William Smith or Smyth (1617-1697), a crafty land-jobber who acted as Henrietta Wentworth's guardian, but who was M.P. for Buckingham throughout the years 1661-79 and whose will makes no mention of any such child [No 61].

Smyth claimed that his father had at one time been carried prisoner by the Turks to Constantinople and that he had four sons by an un-named first wife but all were killed in military service, one for the Stuarts and three for the Hanoverians, one being aid-de-camp to Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick and killed with Marshal Keith in Germany in 1758. Smyth said that his father had been involved in the risings of 1715 and 1745 on behalf of 'the abdicated family' which he considered 'conduct most unaccountable' and had then married secondly when aged 66 his great niece, Mrs Maria Julia Dalziel, a widow, aged 15. Smyth said that this Maria Julia, his mother, died at the age of eighteen [Note 62] and that his father was soon after drowned in a dramatic skirmish with Hanoverian forces in Scotland when aged 72. None of these statements has been corroborated from other sources. The dates and ages seem impossible to reconcile and James Crofts is not known to have had children, none being mentioned in his will. Despite many searches over the years no evidence has been found of the actual existence of 'R. Wentworth Smyth' or of Maria Julia Dalziel.

In August 1806 when challenged by the Earl of Moira, a close friend of the Prince of Wales, to provide some explanation for his assumption of the surname Stuart, Smyth replied haughtily saying that 'after 29 years honourable knowledge of me … your Lordship could not avoid being fully informed of my family, my misfortunes, sufferings, and services, in the cause of my country'. He gave the above outline of his family history but without dates or places. If pressed further he would have said that his 'letters, writings, jewels, &c' proving Monmouth's marriage to Henrietta and his own descent, had existed and been seen by witnesses in Baltimore in 1776, but that he was now able only to produce copies of statements that they had done so [Note 63]. Professor Hancock considered Smyth's copies of papers about landholdings 'of dubious authenticity' [Note 64] and it seems that some of the other vouchers and affidavits that he produced over time also fall into this category.

An example that may have other significance is that Smyth claimed to have taken an active part, he said 'by accident', in the battle of Point Pleasant against the Shawnee Indians in West Virginia on 10 October 1774 [Note 65], and later produced an undated note from Colonel Andrew Lewis to say that he had 'at the head of his company distinguished himself in a very particular manner … and that the success of the day was owing to his spirited conduct and gallantry' [Note 66]. The truth would seem to be that it was Smyth's contemporary, John Stuart (1749-1823), who had distinguished himself in the particular manner that Smyth claimed, leading a company up Crooked Creek to flank the Indians' movement. Curiously John Stuart's father had also come from Scotland after Culloden, had also claimed a relationship to Bonnie Prince Charlie and had also been drowned [Note 67].

Something else of dubious authenticity came to light after Smyth's death when Eunice and her children were left entirely without income. Anticipating that this would happen, Smyth had in 1811 written to Lord Palmerston, Secretary at War, to say that he had 'no prospect of living but a very few weeks, perhaps days' and as he had 'sacrificed a fortune of above £200,000 for his Loyalty' he asked that his family then be given some allowance from the Compassionate Fund, but cautious Palmerston was curious to know why Smyth had left Landguard Fort and he asked that a private letter be sent to the commanding officer of his barracks enquiring as to Smyth's state of health. In September 1814 Eunice herself wrote to Palmerston and, on the assumption that Smyth had died, was sent a form on which to apply for his pension, but widows of half pay officers were only entitled to pensions if their marriages had taken place whilst their husbands were on full pay, and Eunice said that she had married Smyth in 1792, which ruled out any pension. In January 1815 Palmerston agreed that Eunice be paid £10 a year from the Compassionate Fund with £5 for each of her three children, but he asked to see the marriage and birth certificates. Eunice had produced a certificate of marriage by banns at All Saints, Bath, on 23 December 1792, which one can now see was a forgery, no such entry occurring in the registers. It was not questioned at the time and how and when she or Smyth obtained it is unclear, but the authenticity of some of Smyth's other papers is thus called into question.

However, in June 1816 Eunice wrote to Palmerston to say that on the recommendation of Lords Liverpool and Sidmouth, the Prince Regent had granted her a Civil List pension of £50 in addition to the grant from the Fund. After her death in 1818 a neighbour, James Bigg, who had been paying for the education of her eldest son, now appealed to Palmerston and the children were allowed a further £3 each. Bigg told Sir Walter Scott, to whom he had also appealed, that the Prince Regent had asked for the 'case of these orphans and their Lineage' to be investigated at the College of Arms and that the recommendation for the pension followed a report from Sir Isaac Heard, Garter King of Arms, though the Prince Regent 'refused to put the case into print'. Sir Walter sent the children £5 [Note 68]. Sir Isaac Heard's surviving private correspondence is presently inaccessible but it seems unlikely that he could have come to any conclusion from Eunice's papers alone and, because this was so, the Prince Regent did not wish to see anything put into print. In 1821 Eunice's only surviving daughter was granted £50 from the Civil List and small payments from the Fund continued to be made to the two boys until they were eighteen [Note 69].

What the biographers say

In 1814, just before he died, Smyth had been in correspondence [Note 70] with the genealogist Thomas Christopher Banks of whom the DNB says that 'there was scarcely any genealogical will-of-the-wisp which he was not ready, if the fancy struck him, to adopt as a reality'. In his final work, Baronia Anglica Concentrata (1844), Banks gave a flattering account of Smyth in his section on the barony of Wentworth, describing him as 'a man of talent, energy, and enterprise', repeating his family claims and again saying, without dates, that Smyth's (unnamed) father was born two years before Henrietta's death [Note 71].

The Dictionary of National Biography thought Smyth's ancestral claims 'doubtful'. However, the suggestion that there was a Smyth family tradition about the King's two marriages to Lucy Walter is repeated in her biography by Monmouth's biased descendant, Lord George Scott, who accepted Smyth's double descent [Note 72]. In 1929 Lewis Melville similarly accepted the story [Note 73] but Elizabeth D'Oyley in 1938 avoided the question of possible children by Henrietta Wentworth, merely saying that 'a child said to be theirs was brought up in Paris' [Note 74]. wording which was also used by J. N. P. Watson in 1979 [Note 75]. Violet Wyndham in her life of Monmouth, published in 1976, relied on Lord George Scott and Allan Fea and added nothing further [Note 76]. The late fabulist George S. H. L. Washington invented a royal descent for himself through someone he postulated might have been Smyth's sister [Note 77]. Monmouth's most recent biographer, Anna Keay, aware of this article, makes no mention of Smyth or his claims [Note 77A].

One should perhaps note that many think that the 'handsome but effeminate face' of the Duke of Monmouth (who took after his mother) bore no resemblance to the 'harsh and saturnine' features of his father and that from portrait evidence Allan Fea believed that Monmouth might well have been the son of Colonel Robert Sidney [Note 78], though DNA evidence now proves the contrary. Smyth Stuart's obituary says that he bore a 'striking likeness' to 'all the portraits of Charles II', but his engraved portrait (taken from a miniature painted when he was a young man) which appears in Destiny and Fortitude shows no such resemblance. However, there is no question that when Elizabeth Cobbold saw him she was immediately struck by his 'extreme likeness' to portraits of the King and although, as she wrote, 'the chain of evidence' exhibited by his remaining papers, which were brought from Landguard Fort to Ipswich for her to see, was 'not legally complete', she had no doubt that he was Monmouth's grandson. Another portrait dated in 1813 was perhaps painted to illustrate that perceived resemblance. Both portraits found their way to Smyth's family in America and were held by his daughter's descendants until at least 1969 [Note 79].

The true identity of Smyth's parents thus remains a mystery. His forename 'Ferdinand' may or may not have been an early assumption on his part. He could have said that he was named after Henrietta Wentworth's maternal grandfather, Sir Ferdinand Carey, but instead he claimed that he was the godson of Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick to whom, he said, an elder half-brother had been aid-de-camp [Note 80]. Smyth's exaggerated stories are unconvincing and now that we know more about his other inventions, it is perhaps not uncharitable to think that they also were merely creations of what Thomas Parramore had described as the 'unsurpassed fertility of outrageous imagination' of a 'pathological fraud' [Note 81].

Smyth apparently thought that an ancestry which he could not prove entitled him to a consideration for which he was, in truth, quite unworthy. If he had exhibited these traits and absconded from his parents or guardians when very young, they may indeed have welcomed his departure for America whether or not he was the Duke's grandson.

His children

By Abigail Lefferts (died 1828) he had an only child, Elizabeth, who was born at Hempstead, Long Island, on 4 May 1780, and died there in 1858. She had married at Hempstead in 1802, Gideon Nichols [Note 82], who died in 1825 [Note 83], leaving issue.

By Eunice Gray (died 1818, aged 42) he had at least eight children. Only three survived infancy and all died without issue:

(1) Henry Stuart Gray, born 1793 and baptised at St Marylebone, 1794. He was buried at St Marylebone, 1794; inscription as 'Henry Stuart Smyth Stuart' in Paddington Street Burial Ground, St Marylebone [Note 84].

(2) Henrietta Maria, born and baptised at St Mary, Islington, 1797. She died at Landguard Fort, Suffolk, 1813 [Note 85].

(3) Mary Clementina, born and baptised at Epsom, Surrey, 1798. She died without issue in London [Note 86], and was buried at St Mary, Paddington, 1826. She had married at St Pancras, 1825, David Elwin Colombine, a solicitor involved in aerial ship and other speculations who went bankrupt with debts exceeding £17,300 in 1847. He married 2ndly, at St Nicholas, Brighton, 1847, Amy Miles, with whom he had cohabited for some years [Note 87].

(4) Charles Henry, born and baptised at St Mary Newington, 1802. He died 1802; inscription in Paddington Street Burial Ground.

(5) Constantine Wentworth, born and baptised at St George, Bloomsbury, 1805. Educated at Charterhouse, 1815-23; Ensign, 6th Foot, 1825; Lieutenant, 1828; resigned at Poona, 1832. He died in 1849 [Note 91].

(6) Spencer Perceval, born and baptised at St George, Bloomsbury, 1807. He died 1807; inscription in Paddington Street Burial Ground. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Spencer Perceval, gave his father £100, saving the family 'from ruin and death' [Note 88].

(7) Ferdinand Stuart, baptised at Great Burstead, Essex, 1812. Ensign, 37th Madras Native Infantry. Died at Secunderabad, 1835 [Note 89].

(8) Henry, born and died at Landguard Fort, 1814 [Note 90].

It seems perhaps likely that Smyth was also the father of Constantine Wentworth Stuart, born about 1785-6, who married at St Marylebone in 1825, Mary Ann Love, and was buried there from Spring Street in 1849, aged 63, but his baptism has not been found. [Note 91 provides additional information kindly given by Paul Roney].


[Note 1] John Connolly, A Narrative of the Transactions, Imprisonment and Sufferings of John Connolly, An American Loyalist and Lieutenant Colonel in His Majesty's Service (New York, 1783) re-printed in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 12 (1888); J. F. D. Smyth, Narrative or Journal of Capt. John Ferdinand Dalziel Smyth, of the Queen's Rangers (1778) re-printed in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 39 (1915) 143-169. For background see Hugh Edward Egerton, ed., The Royal Commission on the Losses and Services of American Loyalists 1783 to 1785 (Oxford, 1915) Introduction, and Wilbur H. Siebert, The Loyalists of Pennsylvania (University of Columbus, 1905) Chapter 1.

[Note 2] Peter Force, ed., American Archives: Documents of the American Revolution, 1774-1775, 4th Series (1840), vol. 4, columns 479, 518, 615-17, 1646, and vol. 5, columns 236, 1119-21.

[Note 3] Murtie June Clark, Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War, vol. 2 (Baltimore, 1981) 546-50.

[Note 4] Smyth, Narrative (1778).

[Note 5] One of his poems, The Rebels (1778), with the lines, 'So dirty their backs and so wretched their show, That carrion-crow follows wherever they go', continues to be used in American schools to explore 'feelings and understanding of a literary work'; see the website (accessed 7 January 2015).

[Note 6] William H. Moore, History of St George's Church, Hempstead, Long Island, N.Y. (New York, 1881) 279.

[Note 7] Harold Hancock, 'John Ferdinand Dalziel Smyth: Loyalist', in Maryland Historical Magazine, vol. 55, no. 4 (December 1960) 352.

[Note 8] Clark, op. cit. (1981) 196.

[Note 9] He said it contained about 20,000 acres and was still unoccupied or unpossessed; see Wilbur Henry Siebert, The Legacy of the American Revolution to the British West Indies and Bahamas (Columbus, Ohio, 1972) 47.

[Note 10] The National Archives C 217/157, page 34; cf. Peter Wilson Coldham, American Migrations 1765-1799 (Baltimore, 2000) 524-5.

[Note 11] J. H. Cruger, quoted in Egerton, op. cit. (1915) xi.

[Note 12] Egerton, op. cit. (1915).

[Note 13] Roger H. Ellis, 'Records of the American Loyalists' Claims in the Public Record Office', in The Genealogists' Magazine, vol. 12 (1957-8) 375-8, 407-10, 433-4 (incorrectly titled 'Royalists' Claims' in the first two instalments); see also Guide to the Contents of the Public Records, vol. 2 (1963) 120-1.

[Note 14] Hancock, op. cit. (1960), 346-58; he seems to have been unaware of Coke's summaries.

[Note 15] Called Patrick Copeland by Hancock (1960) 350; Halifax Lodge sometimes met at the premises of Peter Copland, innkeeper; the will of a Peter Copland, of London, mariner, master of the ship Berwick outward bound for North Carolina, dated 12 April 1765 (mentioning wife and children) was proved PCC, 8 March 1773 [The National Archives, PROB11/985 folio 99].

[Note 16] Typically serving 4-7 years in exchange for transportation, sustenance and shelter.

[Note 17] The National Archives, WO 43/358.

[Note 18] Thomas C. Parramore, Launching the Craft: the first half-century of Freemasonry in North Carolina (Raleigh, NC, 1975) 60-62.

[Note 19] He had apparently taken his Masonic degrees in Europe [Parramore, op. cit., 13, 185 (note 46)]. His will, dated 28 April 1769, mentions only his widow Charlotte [abstract in North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. 2, no. 1 (January 1901) 24].

[Note 20] Brent Howard Holcomb, Bute County, North Carolina: Minutes of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions 1767-1779 (1988) 38.

[Note 21] In the section of RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project devoted to Early Colonial Settlers of Southern Maryland and Virginia's Northern Neck Counties.

[Note 22] Hancock, op. cit. (1960) 353.

[Note 23] J. F. D. Smyth, A tour in the United States of America, vol. 2 (1784) 378-9.

[Note 24] Hancock, op. cit. (1960) 354-5.

[Note 25] The Times, 13 April 1816, 1a, advertising for his heirs and describing him as 'Jean Ferdinand, Comte de Stuart' who had in 1786 been a Captain in a Regiment of French Royal Dragoons.

[Note 26] Hancock, op. cit. (1960) 355; Ferdinand Smyth Stuart, Destiny and Fortitude (1808) Note 11, Page 34.

[Note 27] Copies are printed in Ferdinand Smyth Stuart, The Case of Ferdinand Smyth Stuart, with his Memorials to The King, the Lords of the Treasury, &c. (1807); copy in The National Archives, C 217/157.

[Note 28] Smyth Stuart, op. cit. (1807) 16.

[Note 29] Inscription to cat Gipsey at Billericay, 9 March 1805, quoted in 'Quaint Epitaphs', in Grantham Journal, 7 October 1871, page 7, 'Attacked and nearly devoured by wild beasts; she suffered also shipwreck, famine, war, and pestilence'.

[Note 30] London Gazette, 30 June 1801, page 745; 4 July 1801, page 765; 7 July 1801, page 796.

[Note 31] Their first child was born 28 September 1793 and baptised 'Henry Stuart Gray, son of John & Unice', at St Marylebone, 14 April 1794; it died 9 July 1794 and was buried as 'Henry Stuart Gray'.

[Note 32] As John Ferdinand Dalziel Smyth Stuart he married Eunice Gray by banns at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Middlesex, on 7 September 1803 [Registers, Page 101]. As John Ferdinand Smyth he married her again at the same church by banns and signed 'J Ferd Smyth or in full length John Ferdinand Dalziel Smyth' on 24 June 1806 [Registers, Page 553]. The two entries are cross-referenced in marginal notes. His marital status was not stated on either occasion.

[Note 33] London Gazette, 27 September 1803, page 1319; The National Archives, WO 43/358; The Monthly Magazine, vol. 39 (1 February 1815) 39.

[Note 34] Smyth Stuart, op. cit. (1807).

[Note 35] A Letter to Lord Henry Petty on Coercive Vaccination (1807).

[Note 36] Smyth Stuart, Destiny and Fortitude (1808) Notes 45-47, Page 49.

[Note 37] 4 August 1809, No. 3254; Bennet Woodcroft, Alphabetical Index of Patentees of Inventions (1854) 549.

[Note 38] Morning Post, 12 April 1810, page 2; The Monthly Magazine, vol. 39 (1 February 1815) 39.

[Note 39] Suffolk Record Office, MS ' Recollections relative to the late Ferdinand Smyth Stuart', HA 231/3/2/37.

[Note 40] The Monthly Magazine, vol. 39 (1 February 1815) 36-41.

[Note 41] Burial 1 January 1815, aged 67 [Registers, Entry 9, Page 2].

[Note 42] Will as Ferdinand Smyth Stewart (sic, signed with a mark) dated 28 December 1814 proved 30 December 1814, Prerogative Court of Canterbury, PROB11/1563 folio 680; Estate Duty Office, IR26/626 folio 1040.

[Note 43] The Monthly Magazine, vol. 39 (1 February 1815) 36-41.

[Note 44] Smyth Stuart, op. cit. (1807) 31.

[Note 45] Smyth Stuart, op. cit. (1807) 30.

[Note 46] Presumably intending Dr John Gregory (1724-1773) of Aberdeen and Edinburgh, for whom see ODNB.

[Note 47] Alfred James Morrison, ed., Travels in Virginia in Revolutionary Times (Lynchburg, Virginia, 1922) an article originally published in 1909.

[Note 48] Written by Edward Irving Carlyle, Lecturer in Modern History at Lincoln College, Oxford, and Assistant Editor of the DNB.

[Note 49] Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 53 (2004) 188-9.

[Note 50] Destiny and Fortitude (1808) iv.

[Note 51] See discussion in Lord George Scott, Lucy Walter: wife or mistress (1947).

[Note 52] Smyth Stuart, Destiny and Fortitude (1808) 30, Elegy XVI; 36, note P.

[Note 53] George David Gilbert, ed., Marie Catherine, Baronne D'Aulnoy: Memoirs of the Court of England in 1675 (1913) 370, 375.

[Note 54] Allan Fea, King Monmouth (1902) 337-8, quoting John Heneage Jesse, Memoirs of the Stuarts, vol. 3 (1855) 154-5.

[Note 55] Smyth Stuart, Destiny and Fortitude (1808) 17, Elegy XI.

[Note 56] Fea, op. cit. (1902) 359.

[Note 57] Allan Fea, The Loyal Wentworths: a companion volume to "King Monmouth" (1928) 167, quoting French Foreign Office Archives, Paris: England, vol. 155, folio 408; and 209-10 for discussion.

[Note 58] She died as Duchess of Bolton, 27 February 1729/30, aged 47.

[Note 59] D'Oyley, op. cit. (1938) 164, 340.

[Note 60] Smyth Stuart, Destiny and Fortitude (1808) 42, notes.

[Note 61] Fea, op. cit. (1928) chapter 5; Complete Baronetage, iii (1903) 191; B. D. Henning, History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690 (1983).

[Note 62] Smyth Stuart, Destiny and Fortitude (1808) 42, notes.

[Note 63] The National Archives, W0 43/358, page 25 of printed claim.

[Note 64] Hancock, op. cit. (1960) 349-50 footnote 8.

[Note 65] J. F. D. Smyth, A tour in the United States of America, vol. 2 (1784) 155-173.

[Note 66] The National Archives, WO 43/358, page 19 of printed claim.

[Note 67] Joseph R. Cole, History of Greenbrier County (Lewisburg, West Virginia, 1917) 51-60.

[Note 68] Wilfred Partington, ed., Sir Walter's Post-Bag (1932) 134-7.

[Note 69] The correspondence with Palmerston is in The National Archives, WO 43/358.

[Note 70] Society of Antiquaries, London, SAL/MS/982/2 (end of volume).

[Note 71] T. C. Banks, Baronia Anglica Concentrata, i (1844) 454.

[Note 72] Lord George Scott, Lucy Walter: wife or mistress (1947) 98-100; Smyth Stuart, Destiny and Fortitude (1808) 17 note P, 50-51.

[Note 73] Lewis Melville, "Mr Crofts the King's Bastard": a biography of James, Duke of Monmouth (1649-1685) (1929) 112.

[Note 74] Elizabeth D'Oyley, James, Duke of Monmouth (1938) 340.

[Note 75] J. N. P. Watson, Captain-General and Rebel Chief: The Life of James, Duke of Monmouth (1979) 205, 267. No evidence has been found that the child was called 'James Wentworth Smyth Stuart' as stated.

[Note 76] Violet Wyndham, The Protestant Duke: a life of Monmouth (1976).

[Note 77] George S. H. L. Washington, Prince Charlie and the Bonapartes (1960); S. H. Lee Washington, 'The Royal Stuarts in America', in English Origins of New England Families, Second Series, vol. 3 (Baltimore, 1985).

[Note 77A] Anna Keay, The last royal rebel: the life and death of James, Duke of Monmouth (Bloomsbury, 2016). 

[Note 78] Alan Fea, Some beauties of the seventeenth century (1906) 128-30.

[Note 79] They may be seen online in the Frick Digital Image Archive.

[Note 80] Smyth Stuart, Destiny and Fortitude (1808) 42, note 18.

[Note 81] Parramore, op. cit., 62 and note 34.

[Note 82] Moore, op. cit. (1881) 280-1.

[Note 83] Frederic Crosby Torrey, The ancestors and descendants of Humphrey Nichols of Newark, New Jersey (Lakehurst, New Jersey, 1917) 23.

[Note 84] Smyth Stuart, Destiny and Fortitude (1808) 49-50, note 48; Thomas Smith, A topographical and historical account of the parish of St Mary-le-Bone (1833) 129.

[Note 85] Monthly Magazine (1815) 40; Leicester Journal, 7 May 1813.

[Note 86] Bury and Norwich Post, 8 November 1826.

[Note 87] Morning Post, 20 September 1847; Bucks Herald, 2 October 1847.

[Note 88] Smyth Stuart, Destiny and Fortitude (1808) 51.

[Note 89] Madras Presidency Ecclesiastical Returns, N-2-17 page 87; Inventories of Deceased Estates, Madras, L-AG-34-27-290 folio 30.

[Note 90] GRO Regimental Births, 1st R.V.B., vol. 85, page 3; Monthly Magazine (1815) 39; The National Archives, WO 43/358 page 108.

[Note 91] Since the publication of the above article Paul Roney has kindly provided me with a copy of an obituary of his ancestress Mrs Elizabeth Nichols which appeared in The Churchman's Monthly Magazine, a repository of Religious, Literary & Entertaining Knowledge, for the Christian Family (New York, 1859) 308-319, which mentions that 'the American and English portions of his [i.e. Smyth Stuart's] family do not seem to have cherished any ill feeling towards each other' and that his son Constantine wrote to his half-sister in America in 1843 and later visited her there, Constantine and his brother Ferdinand being the only male children to have survived their father. I therefore looked again at the burial entry of Constantine Wentworth Stuart in the St Marylebone registers on 9 July 1849 [Entry 1191, Page 149] which shows him as being aged 63, but his death registration at Marylebone in the September Quarter of 1849 shows him as aged 43 [Vol 1, Page 260]. He is thus presumably the child baptised at St George, Bloomsbury, in 1805. He has not been found in the 1841 Census. [AJC, 6 October 2017].

(c) Anthony Camp, 2015.