My third great grandmother Charlotte Frances Dana (1820 – 1904) married John James (1808 – 1855), a solicitor from Newnham on Severn in west Gloucestershire, on 14 May 1839 at St Peters church, Worfield near Albrighton Shropshire.
They had three children, Charlotte Constance (1840 – 1935), John Henry (1841 – 1842), and a still-born son born 2 July 1842 .
In November 1847, discovering she was pregnant by her lover Philip Champion Crespigny, Charlotte deserted her husband and daughter Charlotte Constance and fled to France. Their daughter Ada Isadora was born at Paris on 15 May 1848. [At the time, France was in the throes of a violent revolution. Paris especially was greatly disturbed in June 1848 and it has been estimated that more than 10,000 people were killed or injured.]
Before 1857, when the Matrimonial Causes Act reformed divorce law, divorce in England was expensive and difficult to obtain. I have written previously on the Divorce of John James and Charlotte Frances née Dana.
Letters quoted in the Parliamentary debate make two mentions of their daughter. Charlotte wrote in her farewell letter to her husband: “I cannot live, John, and feel myself a blight upon you and our sweet innocent child…Oh, live to protect and guard our child. She will be a comfort and a blessing to you.” To her servant she wrote “Do not be frightened, Estcourt, at my going away. I know you will be kind and good to my darling child. Let her believe I am gone home – though it is to my long and last one. I leave you money (£5), which will pay all till your master comes again. I ask you to be kind and good to the child, and do not let her feel for her poor mother.”
Divorce law at the time required that there should be no evidence of joint collusion between husband and wife in organizing the divorce proceedings. At first sight, the divorce of John and Charlotte James is a model petition for divorce, fulfilling all the requirements: evidence of adultery, including the birth of a child which is not the husband’s; good – indeed excellent – marital relations right up to the time of separation; generous and most affectionate conduct by the husband, even acknowledged by Charlotte Frances’s parting letter; an attempt to pursue Philip Crespigny for criminal conversation damages.
It seems likely that for several weeks beforehand, John James, Charlotte Frances and Philip Crespigny were conspiring in the elopement and the divorce. John James would not have wanted to continue with an adulterous wife and someone else’s child, and everything that happened on the Isle of Wight (where Charlotte Frances James had been staying before her flight to France) and subsequently, must have been arranged in collusion. Whether the witnesses were suborned or simply deceived by the married couple acting a charade is impossible to tell, though we may suspect the number of people aware of the truth would have been kept to a minimum: bribery is one thing, blackmail an unwanted complication.
The weakest point was Charlotte Frances’s farewell letter. She may have intended to confirm the good conduct of her spouse and their mutual affection, but the exaggerated style fitted badly with the events that followed. One feels she should have taken some advice and guidance, though it must be acknowledged that the requirements for a successful petition of divorce – that the husband must have behaved well and there be mutual affection, but that adultery must be proved – are somewhat contradictory. On the
other hand, as Disraeli commented upon being told about J.S. Mill’s affair with Mrs Harriet Taylor, ‘The plan of having a husband and also a lover is not entirely without precedent’.
Charlotte Constance James was born 6 July 1840 at Newnham in Gloucestershire. She was seven years old when her mother abandoned her on the Isle of Wight in the care of a servant. The letter to the servant suggests that she be told that her mother had died. Mother and child never saw each other again.
On the 1841 census when she was an infant, she was listed as Charlotte. At the time of the 1851 census when she was ten years old she was listed as Constance. It may be that she had always been known by her middle name or it may be that after her mother left she was known by her middle name not her mother’s, now taboo.
In 1851 Constance James was living in her grandmother’s house in Clifton, a suburb of Bristol, with her father and uncle.
Her grandfather, John James, a lawyer, had died on 20 March 1849 at Clifton. Her uncle Charles, also a lawyer, died in late August or early September 1851 at the age of 34 and was buried at St Peters, Newnham.
On 22 July 1852 Constance’s father remarried at Newland, Gloucestershire, to Arabella Veronica Deighton (1826 – 1923). On 3 June 1853, Vera Maria James, half-sister of Constance, was born.
On 23 March 1855 John James died, only 47. Constance was then 14 years old.
On 17 February 1858 Charlotte’s step-mother remarried in Bombay, India to Stanley Napier Raikes (1824 – 1891), a Captain of the 18th Regiment of Native Infantry.
On 27 January 1859 Charlotte Constance James married Francis Gamble Blood at St Andrews Church, Clifton, Gloucestershire. He was a captain in the 69th regiment. The marriage was performed by her step-mother’s brother, the Reverend Charles Dighton, Rector of Mitcheldean, Gloucestershire.
I will write separately about Charlotte Constance Blood née James’s adult life.
Charlotte Frances Dana married Philip Crespigny in Paris on 18 July 1849. They had five children between 1848 and 1858. They sailed for Australia on 3 December 1851 and never returned to England. When they emigrated, they left behind an infant son, Constantine Pulteney Trent Champion de Crespigny who had been born on 5 May 1851. It would appear that they considered he would not be strong enough to survive the voyage. He was brought up by his Crespigny grandparents in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and was reunited with his parents in 1875 at the age of 24.
Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny died on 9 November 1904 at her son-in-law and daughter’s property at Eurumbeen East, near Beaufort, Victoria, Australia. Philip Champion Crespigny died at Brighton, Victoria, a suburb of Melbourne, on 14 September 1889 from general paralysis, which had lasted nearly 13 years.