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Anthony J. Camp - Maria Fitzherbert's 'descendants'

Maria Fitzherbert's 'Descendants'

In August 1806 Mrs Fitzherbert told Lady Jerningham said 'that she was particularly fond of children, and should have liked to have had a dozen of her own' [W.H. Wilkins, Mrs Fitzherbert and George IV, vol. 2 (1905) 84]. Her only child, by her second husband, had died after a few months and the assumption must be that there were not any.

Indeed, the first major biographer of George IV, Robert Huish, a great collector of informed gossip but no friend of the King, noted in 1831, 'as rather a remarkable circumstance that no issue was ever known to emanate from any of the amours' of either the late King or his brother the late Duke of York [Robert Huish, Memoirs of George the Fourth, vol. 1 (1830) 262].

The King never publicly acknowledged any illegitimate child but in the first draft of his will, made in 1818, he intended to leave 'my young friend George Seymour Crole, Cornet in the 11th Regiment of Light Dragoons, serving in the East Indies', the sum of £25,000 [Duke of Wellington, ed., A selection from the private correspondence of the First Duke of Wellington (London, 1952) 70], and Crole must be the unnamed 'natural son, an officer in the East Indies', named by him as a possible recipient of £30,000 when the King later discussed his will with Lord Eldon in 1823 [Arthur Aspinall, ed., The correspondence of George, Prince of Wales, 1770-1812, vol. 8 (1971) 482-6]. Crole's fees at the Royal Military College had been paid from the Privy Purse in 1814-16, and when he served in India as aide-de-camp to the Governors of Bengal, 1818-28, they had been aware of the circumstances of his birth.

Sadly, as Roger Fulford wrote in 1949, 'there is now almost a vested interest in maintaining the wickedness of the Prince, because there are many people today who like to fill a gap in their pedigrees, or to explain the honourable obscurity of their origin, by claiming a dishonourable descent from the Prince. It is only possible to say that family tradition is not proof ... such descendants may exist, but proof appears to be uniformly lacking' [Roger Fulford, George the Fourth (1949) 134-5].

Some thirty-six children attributed to George IV by different authors are listed and discussed in Royal Mistresses and Bastards: Fact and Fiction: 1714-1936 (2007) and a further half-dozen are considered in the 'Additions' on my website. As I have written [RM&B 132], judging by the relatively open manner in which Crole was supported throughout his life and the recognition given to the illegitimate children of other members of the Royal Family at this time, many of these claims could be rejected almost out of hand and the surviving evidence does not support any one of them. A writer in 1930 said of an author that she had a prodigious imagination that made her famous 'amongst the uncritical, the largest class in the world', and that has undoubtedly been the case here [Anon, Kings, courts & society: recollections of a veteran (1930) 240].

Among the most bizarre and worthless of the claims about children attributed to Mrs Fitzherbert is that relating to one James Henry Adolph Hayward, supposedly her son, but who, in reality, does not seem to have existed other than in the imagination of James Theus Fitzherbert (1846-1933) who had been born Madison Taylor Shadduck and who began to forge documents in 1905.

Large numbers of private papers relating to Mrs Fitzherbert were destroyed in her lifetime but those papers which provided evidence of her illegal marriage to the Prince of Wales on 15 December 1785 had been sealed up by her in 1833, together with a letter from the Prince dated 11 June 1799 which confirmed the names of the witnesses [Wilkins, 1, 99-100]. In 1856 The Hon. Charles Langdale published in a limited edition Memoirs of Mrs Fitzherbert; with an account of her marriage with H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, afterwards King George the Fourth but he was unable to provide any written evidence that a marriage ceremony had taken place. Evidence of the ceremony was not fully published until William H. Wilkins produced the two volumes of Mrs Fitzherbert and George IV (1905) and included a printed copy of a marriage certificate from which the names of the witnesses had been cut [Wilkins, 1, 99-100]. A facsimile of the mutilated certificate is reproduced as the frontispiece to the first volume of Arthur Aspinall, The Correspondence of George, Prince of Wales 1770-1812 (1963). Wilkins died in 1906 and the few remaining papers sealed up by Mrs Fitzherbert and deposited in Coutts' Bank in 1833 were published in 1939 by Sir Shane Leslie in Mrs Fitzherbert: a life chiefly from unpublished sources [Shane Leslie, Mrs Fitzherbert (1939) xv]. They made no mention of any child and it is now generally accepted from the increased knowledge of almost every aspect of her biography that Mrs Fitzherbert had no child by the Prince. Her most recent biographer, James Munson, so concludes, saying that 'given the public nature of the Prince's and Maria's lives, such a thing could not have been kept secret' [James Munson, Maria Fitzherbert: the secret wife of George IV (2001) 176].

However, as a result of her illegal marriage and particularly to Roman Catholics, Mrs Fitzherbert seemed something more than the Prince's 'mistress' and Shane Leslie wrote that 'no woman of her time made greater efforts to avoid coming under that term' [Mrs Fitzherbert (1939), page xi]. As noted she told Lady Jerningham on 10 August 1806 that she was particularly fond of children and should have liked to have had a dozen of her own, but she unfortunately declined to accept Lord Stourton's written suggestion, made on 29 November 1836, that she leave some statement in her own handwriting, 'of no issue under a marriage that the Common Law of England or Roman Catholic law holds to be valid although the Parliamentary law of England does not acknowledge'. He said that she might 'confirm or laugh at my over-scrupulous care of the interests of future generations', but that, 'History is full of claimants of a doubtful origin' [Munson (2001) 360 and note 20]. This, however, smilingly she declined to do. Thus unfortunately she left the way open for future claimants to come forward. Lord Stourton, her friend and one of her executors, was confident enough to write to The Times, 'no issue followed this union' [The Times, 16 July 1838, 5c].

Four thousand copies of Wilkins's book were published early in 1905 and it was reprinted in America [Shane Leslie, Mrs Fitzherbert (1939), xii]. The fears expressed by Lord Stourton were proved correct when, immediately after the publication of details of the illegal marriage in America, sensational stories about Mrs Fitzherbert's family and claims to her supposed estate immediately began to appear in American newspapers.

These stories also tell us what one American Fitzherbert family actually believed at that time. On 15 November 1905 the Baltimore Sun, in a special dispatch from New York dated the previous day, said that Mrs Samuel Harris, the wife of a prosperous blacksmith at Kenvil, New Jersey, and a daughter of Thomas Edward Fitzherbert (c.1823-1887), had appeared at the Astor Library in search of documentation to prove that she was a granddaughter of Mrs Fitzherbert's son. Her father, she said, had been born in Dublin, had come to America when eight years old, and had spoken of a large estate to which they were entitiled 'in the old country'. This was Rebecca Jennie Fitzherbert, born in 1859. She appeared again in the Los Angeles Herald for 26 September 1906 saying that she would devote the remainder of her life to the quest. The estate, she said, 'had been rated in the neighbourhood of $25,000,000'. She had written to King Edward VII about the release of the record of the illegal marriage from Coutts' Bank saying 'the fact that a son was born has not been made public, which, of course, these papers must contain'. The son, she wrote, had married and had three children, one girl and two boys, her father being the youngest son and named Thomas Edward by Mrs Fitzherbert after her first two husbands. She said that Mrs Fitzherbert 'not only supported the family, but lived with them most of the time in Dublin, Ireland, where my father was born'. Mrs Fitzherbert had, however, she said, sent the family to America in the spring of 1833, 'thinking they would be safer in America after her death' but 'my grandfather was taken ill on the journey over and died in French's hotel within a few days after his arrival'. She claimed that the marriage certificate 'proved' that the couple were legally married and asked the King to see that the family got 'the money which legally and rightfully belongs to us'. In reply the King's private secretary merely expressed his regret 'at being unable to further her wishes in the manner referred to'. She had told the newspaper that after his mother's death in 1846 her father had a disagreement with his brother and sister and never saw them again. She understood that his sister had married a rich man of the name of Bradison [Los Angeles Herald, vol. 33, no. 361, 26 September 1906].

Mrs Harris was alive at the time of the 1940 census, aged 81, widowed and living with her daughter Laura, at Caldwell in Essex County, New Jersey. Perhaps by then she had seen Shane Lesley's books and realised that Mrs Fitzherbert had never lived in Ireland and indeed was probably quite unaware of any Fitzherberts there or in America who claimed to be her descendants. Her will, dated 25 March 1836, with two codicils, had been proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 20 April 1837 and had been published in full by Wilkins [vol. 2, Appendix B, pages 308-316]. It made no mention of any son. The fortune, she must quickly have discovered, did not exist. Mrs Fitzherbert's personal estate, as the Probate Act Book of the Prerogative Court (available then at Somerset House) would have shown, had been sworn at 'Under £35,000' [Anthony Camp, Royal Mistresses and Bastards (2007) 145; its distribution is detailed at The National Archives under reference IR26/1448 folio 144]. Mrs Harris, like many others who had said that Mrs Fitzherbert's marriage was a morganatic one (something unknown in English law), had ignored the fact that the illegality of the marriage resulted from two Acts of Parliament, the Royal Marriage Act of 1772 and the Act of Settlement of 1701. Mrs Fitzherbert herself was well aware of their implications and was naturally concerned by the harsh court actions which had followed the two marriages of the Prince of Wales's brother, Augustus, in 1793, the court taking the view that the validity of canon law was entirely subject to statute law [Munson (2001) 251-2].

Unfortunately not one of Mrs Harris's claims or statements with regard to her grandfather and the events of his life can be confirmed. The decennial US census returns show that her father first appeared in the 1850 census as Edwd Fitzherbert, aged 25, 'peadlar', living with James Weyant, a farmer, at Monroe in Orange County, New York. Ten years later in 1860 he was Thomas E Fitzherbert, aged 30, a butcher, at Rockaway Township, Morris, New Jersey. Ten years later in 1870 he was aged 40, a 'peddler', at Rockaway, and in 1880 he was aged 50, a butcher, at Jefferson Township, Morrison, New Jersey. He had said throughout that he was born in Ireland. He died in Morris County, New Jersey, on 31 December 1887, apparently aged 64. His wife Catherine or Catharine, whose maiden name was Christie, was aged 27 in 1860 (born New Jersey), aged 37 in 1870 (born Ireland), and aged 46 in 1880 (born New Jersey). The couple are said to have married at Sparta, New Jersey, in 1846 or 1847, and their first child Mary Fitzherbert is said to have been born there on 11 March 1849. However, no record of that marriage has been found and the illegitimate child Mary Christie, aged 1, was living with her mother Catherine Christie, aged 18, in the house of her grandfather Robert Christie, mason, on 23 October 1850 [1850 Census, Township of Sparta, Sussex County, New Jersey, line 14]. The child's mother, Catherine, subsequently married on 18 January 1893, David A. Keefe (1834-1912), and died at Sparta, New Jersey, 14 September 1912.

Mrs Harris was reported as saying that her father 'hated the English bitterly' (a sentiment that Mrs Fitzherbert would not have shared) and although from the above details one cannot be certain of his date of birth he seems likely, from the infrequency of the name in Dublin, to be the Thomas Fitzherbert, aged 15, who was on 3 July 1842 committed to Kilmainham Goal, Dublin, by Sir Nicholas FitzSimon, Knt, for 'having in his possession a stolen handkerchief'. He was sentenced to a month's confinement with hard labour or a fine of £2, and discharged on 31 July 1842 [Registry of Prisoners committed to Kilmainham Gaol, for the year 1842, No. 550]. No record of the migration of a Thomas or an Edward Fitzherbert to America at the appropriate period can be found.

However, by 1915 Mrs Harris would have heard from her younger brother, James Clarence Fitzherbert (1866-1959), a quite remarkable story told to him by one Madison Taylor Shadduck (1846-1931) an engineer who in 1900 had been unemployed for ten months, that he, Shadduck, was really called James Theus Fitzherbert and was the head of the Fitzherbert family, he being the grandson of James Henry Adolph Hayward, Mrs Fitzherbert's son, and that he had 'discovered the long lost documents relating to the family lot'. Her brother, described as 'a humble janitor' at City Hall, Newark, New Jersey, who had never been to school or college, revealed the claim to the local newspaper, the Daily Independent, at Monessen, Pennsylvania, which published the story on 23 June 1915. Later claims centred on these 'discovered' documents but from their extraordinary nature and content it is obvious that they had been forged by someone interested in the money but not entirely familiar with legal documents or with the events of the time. Many questions arising from them would be answered if they were published in full or in facsimile. The originals may have been destroyed, but versions of the main document continue to circulate and a typed copy was sent to me by a family descendant in September 1988.

This document is headed 'Family Pact with appended Peerage Patent' and commences with the words, 'This agreement, concluded on and prior to May 17th A.D. 1832, between Our Majesty, the now Apparent Succession and her line of Successors prospective, party of the first part, and Maria Ann Fitzherbert, so styled, her heir, namely; James Henry Adolph (for convenience styled Hayward) et all, of Dublin, Ireland, and his posterity, parties of the second part'. The tortuous wording of this bizarre forgery said that the King and his successors would pay Hayward and his wife and children £6,000 annually and would deposit in the Bank of England for Hayward's 'posterity' sums which would amount in 1912 to a million pounds (less the annuities) together with 'the optional value of the hereunto appended peerage, not to exceed £50,000'. In 1912 Hayward or his eldest son James would decide if they preferred the money or the peerage. This was on condition that Hayward with his wife and children would remove to America within a year. Hayward agreed that the terms were 'just and acceptable' and would in 1912 opt to either accept the peerage or take the £50,000. The document was signed by William R, Windsor, May 17th, 1832 and Alexandrina P.R. (as witnessed by Charles Gray, E. of R., and Henry Brougham, Chancellor), by Maria Ann Fitzherbert (as witnessed by Arthur Wellesley, P.M., and Charles Gray, E. of H.), and then by Maria Ann Fitzherbert and James Henry Adolph Hayward (as witnessed by Henry Brougham, Chancellor and Rev. Sidney Smith). Attached is the 'Royal Seal'. Also attached is a 'Peerage Patent' creating 'James Henry Adolph Fitzgeorge [sic], Son of our Predecessor and his wife, formerly Mrs Maria Ann Ftzherbert ... a Peer of the Realm After A.D. 1912, with Hereditary Title of Duke of Malta together with all and singular the rights amenities pertaining unto the highest order of peerage'. This is signed William IV, Rex, and sealed at Windsor, 17 May 1832, with witnesses Charles Gray, E. of R., and Henry Brougham, Chancellor. The significance of the date 1912 would seem to stem from the fact that Catherine Keefe and her husband died that year and would have known that the documents were spurious.

The King was not at Windsor on 17 May 1832 but at St James's Palace.The names of the witnesses are curiously garbled. Although Queen Victoria had been baptised Alexandrina Victoria she had used and was known as 'Victoria' since childhood [Cecil Woodham-Smith, Queen Victoria: her life and times, vol. 1, 1819-1861 (1972) 35-36]. More importantly her age (she was then only 12) would probably have invalidated the contract, it not being to her advantage. Mary Ann Fitzherbert, had since the 1780s, Latinised her name to become and sign 'Maria Fitzherbert' [James Munson, Maria Fitzherbert (2001) 45]. The Duke of Wellington had not been 'P.M.' since 1830 and the Prime Minister was Earl Grey not Gray.  

The choice of the date 17 May 1832 was particularly unfortunate as the Prime Minister, Earl Grey, at the height of the Reform Bill crisis, had on 8 May tendered his resignation as Prime Minister, having failed to obtain a majority in the House of Lords, and this had been accepted by the King in a letter from Windsor on 9 May. In these 'Days of May' many believed that the Duke of Wellington would come back to rule by the sword. Widespread mass meetings were taking place and the kingdom was close to revolution. The King was hissed and clods of earth were thrown at his carriage as he drove up from Windsor on 13 May. He had initally hoped to persuade Lord Brougham to form a Ministry, but then asked Lord Lyndhurst and then the Duke of Wellington who formally withdrew on 15 May. However, with ever growing support for Reform the King on that day approached Lord Grey to re-form a Ministry and after further negotiations Grey and Brougham went to St James's on 18 May and, in an extremely painful meeting, agreed to resume office [Philip Ziegler, King William IV (1971) 214-221].

On Thursday, 17 May 1832, Mrs Fitzherbert was seen by Sir George Seymour when he went to see the young Duke of Orleans (the eldest son of the French king) on horseback review the Guards in Hyde Park and noted, 'Saw Mrs Fitzherbert and Minney's fine boy' [Shane Leslie, Mrs Fitzherbert (1939) 302]. Minney's boy, later Lionel, 4th Earl of Portarlington, had been born on 7 April. That same morning Princess Victoria, accompanied by the Duchess of Kent, 'rode at Fozard's Riding School' [Morning Advertiser, Friday, 18 May 1832, page 3] and the Duchess went afterwards in state to attend the Queen's drawing room at 2 o'clock [The Globe, 18 May 1832, page 3; Morning Advertiser, 18 May 1832, page 3]. The duchess, known to be a 'Reformer', did not, however, attend the King's select dinner party at St James Palace that evening ['Court Circular' in Sun (London), 19 May 1832, page 4; Morning Advertiser, 18 May 1832]. On the Friday she and Princess Victoria had taken a long walk in Hyde Park [Sun (London), 19 May 1832, page 4] whilst there was a meeting of Government Ministers from 12 o'clock to 4 o'clock at the Foreign Office, the King immediately afterwards giving audience to Earl Grey and Lord Brougham. However, the presence in London in May 1832 of someone describing himself as Mrs Fitzherbert's son goes completely without notice by any contemporary diarist or gossip, in spite of the large sums of money said to be involved.

In order to fill the gap between himself and Mrs Fitzherbert, Madison Taylor Shadduck, calling himself James Theus Fitzherbert, invented a story that he was born '15 miles out to sea from New York, in a small Danish fishing vessel flying the English flag' on 12 April 1846 the son of Mrs Fitzherbert's eldest grandson, an otherwise unrecorded James Clarence Fitzherbert (who he said had gone to the Californian goldfields and died during the journey or shortly afterwards) by a wife Hallena or Helen Shadduck / Shaddick / Stattuck (who, he said, died at his birth). He claimed that he had been adopted by Helen's father, Evert or Everitt Shadduck, and that he had grown up in the name Madison Taylor Shadduck. He produced typed copies of three statements: the first about his birth at sea on 12 April 1846 signed by Dr Carl Rasmussen, a Danish physician who was present at his birth; the second a certificate of the marriage of his parents at an unstated place on 5 July 1844, signed by Edward J. Eldred (? the surveyor of this name at Williamsport, Lycoming, who died in 1918); and the third a general statement said to have been made by his father James Clarence Fitzherbert, of the City of Boston (as the 'elder grandson' of Mrs Fitzherbert), to Edward J. Eldred, a Justice of the Peace, of Lycoming, Pennsylvania, on 17 June 1844. Copies of these documents have been attached to accounts of the family on since 2011 but the whereabouts of their originals is not stated. Indeed, the copies have every appearance of fabrications made after Catherine's death in 1912 and their claims cannot be confirmed from any contemporary source. Madison Taylor Shadduck was probably also responsible for forging the so-called personal letters from Queen Victoria in which the Queen is said to have rebuffed Adolph's widow (calling herself Mrs Catherine Fitzherbert) in reply to claims for instalments of the annuity, but then in a letter of 29 February 1840 saying that 'Fitzgeorge' was her 'true name' [, though it was being given at lwast twice to foundlings in the London Foundling Hospital], and then in 1884 stating that she was sending 'a decoration as insignia of rank to be worn after the year 1912' [Daily Independent (Monessen), 23 June 1915, vol. 14, no. 9, page 2]. The peerages of the day say that the insignia of a duke was a coronet worn over a crimson velvet cap turned up with ermine and finished with a gold tassel, in a circle of silver gilt surmounted by eight golden-strawberry-leaves, together with a mantle (worn on state occasions in Parliament) of fine scarlet cloth lined with white taffeta, with four bars or ermine on each side, each bar adorned above with gold lace, and tied at the left shoulder with a white ribbon [Whitaker's Peerage (1913) 12]. One wonders what he is said to have done with them!

The decennial census for 1850 shows James Theus Fitzherbert as the child Madison T. Shadick, born in Pennsylvania, aged 4, amongst the twelve children in the household of Evert Shadick, a farmer, in the remote Fox Township, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania. He was there, as Madison Shaddoe, aged 14, in 1860; then as T. Shaddock, farm labourer, aged 24, in 1870; and again as Taylor Shadduck, farmer, aged 34, in 1880, always saying that he was born in Pennsylvania. In 1900 he was aged 54, still at Fox Township, as Madison T. Shattuck, born Pennsylvania in April 1846, divorced, a civil engineer but unemployed for 10 months. He has not been found in 1910 but in 1920 he was using the surname Fitzgeorge and living alone at Shunk Farm in Fox Township, aged 73, born at 'Sea, Oc.'. He has not been found in 1930 but died as James Theus Fitzgeorge at the home of his son Byron Shattuck (1872-1966), at Brookwood, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on 24 September 1933 [Alabama Deaths, vol. 43, cert. 21637, roll 3]. His son Charles 'Herbert' Shattuck (1870-1941) still claimed in the 1920 census that his father was born at Sea, and Herbert's daughter, Mrs Irma Fosmer (1896-1972), gave an interview, 'Claims King as Ancestor', to the Times Herald (Olean, New York), on 31 January 1938, page 5, she then being at Clara, Potter County, Pennsylvania.

This very sad story seems to have arisen merely because the family in America bore the same surname, followed by speculation as to a possible relationship, but it was subsequently superseded by the forgeries of Madison Shadduck which nobody was willing to condemn. There may be additional material, as yet unseen, which would throw further light on the two families, but the publication of the forged documents, in their complete absurdity, should perhaps be a priority. Correspondence on the subject would be welcomed.

Anthony J. Camp, 5 October 2020; extended and amended 4-6January 2022.