Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Admiral's Wife: Family, Navy and Nation in the Life of Elizabeth Wynne Fremantle (Thursday 25 February) and three new visits

Our February lecture is to be given by Elaine Chalus, Professor in British History at Bath Spa University. Professor Chalus's primary research interests are in English political and social history in the long eighteenth century. Her current research project focuses on the diaries of Elizabeth Wynne Fremantle (1778-1857) and the correspondence of the larger Fremantle family.

Elizabeth Wynne Fremantle, known to her family as Betsey, was the main author of the extensive Wynne Diaries and the wife of the Royal Navy officer Thomas Fremantle, a close associate of Nelson.

Betsey Wynne's rakish father became a friend of Casanova. He got into financial difficulties, sold his Lincolnshire estate and took his family abroad. When Betsey was 18 the Wynne family had to be rescued from Livorno during the French invasion of Italy. Soon afterwards Betsey married the family's rescuer Thomas Fremantle in the home in Naples of the British envoy Sir William Hamilton and his wife Emma.

Thomas became Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Fremantle, first Baron Fremantle, and a close personal friend of Lord Nelson. Betsey and Thomas's children included the politician the first Baron Cottesloe, a Royal Navy officer after whom the city of Fremantle in Western Australia is named, and an Anglican Dean of Ripon.

The Wynne Diaries provide a vivid account of a well-connected English family abroad, mainly in Germany and Italy, in the last years of the eighteenth century and the early years of the nineteenth. Thomas was frequently absent at sea. Betsey's letters detail the challenges of raising their growing family without him as well as her thoughts on the Nelson-Hamilton scandal and other matters.

Three visits

There will be a members' visit to Bath Record Office on Thursday 17 March (a change of date from that given earlier) in the evening. Details are available from me (mikeshort20@btinternet.com or 01225 812945).

Two afternoon visits for members have been organised to Mells Manor (home of the Asquith family) and St Andrew's Church, Mells, on Thursday 26 May and to Rodmarton Manor, near Cirencester, on Thursday 23 June. Details of the visits and application forms will be sent to members in March.

Mike Short

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