Sunday, January 22, 2012

Anne Bonfoy (nee Eliot) and Royal Doulton

Mom discovered something kind of cool yesterday --- something that I thought was cool, anyway. I've been doing some research on the Eliot Family from Port Eliot in Cornwall, and I've been reading about a pretty interesting family. There were nine children. Some died young, some had titles and two sons were in the Royal Navy. The youngest son actually came to Pensacola as a Governor of Florida in 1769! He actually died here and was buried right outside the wall of "Fort Pensacola". Unfortunately, the British hadn't counted on the fact that the grave (and the Fort!) was built on the beach, so it was only a matter of time before all were washed right out into the Ocean. Big mistake.

Well, I'd been able to read about eight of the nine siblings, but no one seemed to have put anything down about the oldest daughter. This kind of surprised me, as she married a Captain in the Royal Navy who was actually the Governor of Newfoundland in the mid-1750s. She was painted twice by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and one of the portraits was so famous that it was actually mass-produced as a decorative print without her name on it. It was just sold as a print of a beautiful woman. She had one daughter who actually married an Earl and became Lady of the Bedchamber to the Princesses.

So, why was it that I couldn't find even a reliable source for a death date? Some sources said that she died in 1810, but there was always a question mark with that. It doesn't help that her name is "Anne Eliot". Sounds nice, but it's actually the name of the heroine in Jane Austen's Persuasion, so looking her up online is a bit tough. Her married name was "Bonfoy", though, which should have been a little easier --- it didn't help much.

Finally, I find an engraving of her listed in the UK National Portrait Gallery. On this piece is a hand-written note saying that she died in 1816 --- and this was written a long time ago, so I'm thinking that would be more reliable than a PDF made last year. Sure enough, there is one little tiny mention of her death in an 1816 magazine on Google Books. Knowing this, I was then able to find her will in the probate lists of the UK Archives. So, a bit of the mystery is cleared up --- but it's still more cloudy than I would have expected for someone so "high up" in the social circles.

To get to the interesting find that Mom came up with . . .
In 1991, Royal Doulton made a series of figures called "Reynolds Ladies", and Mrs. Hugh Bonfoy was the first figurine! I thought that was pretty cool. I mean, what are the chances of researching somebody like this and actually finding a statuette of her?! These are pictures of the figurine, the original Reynolds portrait and an engraved portrait of her in the fashion of Reynolds. More later.

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