On Thursday, 11th of September 1845, Lady Alexandrina Victoria Murray was baptised at St Leonard’s, Streatham in Surrey. The family were living at 78 Pall Mall, London.
Her birth date is given as 19th July 1845 although it looks as if it was originally in the process of being written as the 16th and then amended. I have not seen her birth certificate to verify this but what is certain is that her father had died on Saturday, 15th July 1845, just a day, or a few days, before her birth. He was buried on 22nd July in the same church and by the same vicar who would perform his daughter’s baptism a few short weeks later.
Susan Constance Mary Murray (b 7 Jul 1837 in Wilton, Wilts.)
Constance Euphemia Woronzow Murray (b 28 Dec 1838 in Wilton, Wilts.)
Charles Adolphus Murray( b. 24 Mar 1841);
were only 8, 6 and 4 years old respectively.
Their widowed mother, the Dowager Countess of Dunmore was 30 years old and faced the prospect of not only raising a family but also running her son’s estates for him until he became of age.
Quite when this occurred is complicated: Up to the age of 14, a boy was a ‘Pupil’ and the person in control his ‘Tutor’. From 14 until 21, the age of majority, he was a ‘Minor’ and, although he could enter into contracts, I do not know to what extent he would have been in control. Therefore until at least the 24th March 1855, and quite possibly in most respects, until 24th March 1862 the whole of Harris was under his mother’s control.
Who knows what mixture of emotions she was going through in that fateful week in July (or, indeed, whether the death of her husband had played any part in bringing-on the birth of her fourth child?) but, even for a woman of wealth and privilege, such an appalling combination of events can only be seen as tragic and I don’t think the closeness of the two dates has been commented upon before.
There is a reference in the NAS (RH4/195) to a letter dated 29th November 1853 from Prince Albert Edward (the later King Edward VII) to Charles Adolphus regarding them playing together at Buckingham Palace. The Prince was some seven-and-a-half months younger than the Earl and the friendship lasted throughout their lives. I mention this merely to indicate the vast gulf that existed between the private lives of the Dunmores and the social circumstances of those on their Harris estate. 1853 was when the people of Borve were being ‘Cleared’…