Harriet Arbuthnot–#AtoZChallenge “H”

Welcome to “H” in the A to Z Challenge 2017. The 1st Duke of Wellington is my theme for this year’s Challenge. 

Harriet Arbuthnot was born to a wealthy family, the Fanes, in Lincolnshire in 1793. She was a well-balanced and smart young woman when she married Charles Arbuthnot. Charles was 46 when he married Harriet, 20. He already had four children as his first wife had passed away. Charles was serving in Lord Liverpool’s government and because of this, his young second wife became interested in politics and the government.

Harriet Arbuthnot, Sir Thomas Lawrence, engraved by William Ensom c. 1830, National Library of Ireland (from history.blog.gov.uk)

Harriet decided to keep a journal about the happenings she was privy to in British politics and she was good friends with Lord Castlereagh, who was serving as the Foreign Secretary. Sadly, Castlereagh committed suicide, so the Duke of Wellington became her focus in the politics of the day. The Duke and the Arbuthnots became great friends and confidants and he traveled and socialized with the couple extensively.

The Duke was never very close emotionally with his own wife, the former Kitty Pakenham. I will write about their relationship in a few days. Harriet Arbuthnot was the Duke’s best friend until her sudden death from cholera in 1834. Even though rumors swirled, the biographers believe that the Duke and Harriet had a platonic relationship. The Duke was romantically involved with many other women other than Mrs. Arbuthnot. After Harriet’s death, husband Charles went to live at Apsley House with the Duke as they remained great friends after Harriet’s death. Charles died at Apsley House in 1850. The Duke lived two more years after Charles’ death.

–bookseller image from Abe Books

In 1950, The Journal of Mrs. Arubthnot was published, consisting of two volumes of more than 400 pages each. After 100 plus years, much was learned from Harriet Arbuthnot’s journals about the major political players when the Duke of Wellington was involved in politics. Mrs. Arbuthnot is looked upon as being somewhat snobbish from the journals, she did lean politically on the side of the Tories, and she was vehemently against Catholic reformation of any type at the time. 

After the Tories lost control in 1832, Mrs. Arbuthnot quit writing in her journals, ending the last entry mid-sentence.

Below is a drawing done of the Duke and Mrs. Arbuthnot:

–A Sketch in the Park, unknown artist, National Portrait Gallery, published by Thomas McLean, lithograph, published 27 July 1834,  11 3/8 in. x 8 1/8 in. (288 mm x 207 mm) paper size, given by Henry Witte Martin, 1861,  NPG D7604

I knew nothing about Mrs. Arbuthnot until I went on The Duke of Wellington Tour in 2015. I still have much to learn about the Arbuthnots.

Previous A to Z Challenge 2017 posts:

Apsley House



Douro, Marquess of

Eton College

Fraser, Hugh

  8 comments for “Harriet Arbuthnot–#AtoZChallenge “H”

  1. April 10, 2017 at 5:18 AM

    Well done, Denise!

  2. April 10, 2017 at 8:26 AM

    God bless Harriett for keeping a journal. There’s a further book called “Wellington and the Arbuthnots” by E.A. Smith. Let me know if you want me to mail it to you. Or bring it to London. H for Harriett is much better than H for Hyde Park Corner!

  3. April 10, 2017 at 8:35 AM

    Thanks, Kristine. I am glad to know you have it when I will need it–not quite yet, however.

  4. hilarymb
    April 10, 2017 at 9:48 AM

    Hi Denise – how fascinating … interesting how she was astute enough to keep a journal – pity she didn’t live longer – but cholera was rife. You are fleshing the Duke out for us somewhat … cheers Hilary


    • April 10, 2017 at 10:33 AM

      Thanks, Hilary. I think I have merely scratched the surface. 🙂

  5. May 8, 2017 at 11:43 AM

    400 Pages each huh? I wonder what she would have thought about the A-Z challenge?

    • May 8, 2017 at 2:09 PM

      I think Mrs. Arbuthnot could have whizzed through the A to Z with no issues. She was quite the writer. Like anyone, she did well with subjects she was most interested in (DofW)!

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