CAROLINE GEORGIANA CATHERINE PRYTHERCH (NEE DALTON) 1808 – 1875 & THE MYSTERIOUS ROYAL CONNECTION, THAT STILL PERSISTS AFTER 250 YEARS.

Caroline Georgiana Catherine Prytherch (nee Dalton) was born on December 24th 1808 at a place called ARNEE in India in a fortified bomb proof barracks. She was the youngest daughter of four children born to Dr James Dalton and his wife Catherine. Caroline’s sister –Charlotte Augusta Catherine, also born in ARNEE, and her two brothers – Hawkins Catherine Augustus and Henry Catherine Augustus, born in MADRAS died at a young age and never married or had children.

The “palatial” Hospital built by James Dalton which he owned, renting it out to the Indian government. The family continued to receive a substantial rental income until 1879 when a new hospital was built. The building is now used as the Madras Christian College.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only Caroline married, at a church called Llanllwch on the outskirts of Carmarthen Town – to a wealthy Carmarthenshire landowner & Magistrate Daniel Prytherch who became the Mayor of Carmarthen in 1831. They had fourteen children. In 1875, whilst lodging at a house in Llanstephan with two of her children she died aged 67 and was buried in St David’s Cemetery Carmarthen with her husband and 3 children – Frances Sarah Dalton Prytherch, Blanch Dalton Prytherch, and Daniel Dalton Prytherch in what is undoubtedly the most elaborate and ornate grave in the cemetery.

The burial register entry for Caroline in 1875

For the last two hundred and sixty years the family has been mired in controversy in as much that it is still believed by some that Caroline’s mother Catherine was the daughter of a secret liaison between the then Frederick Prince of Wales (later king George III) and Hannah Lightfoot, known as the “Fair Quaker” Why such a story has persisted for such a long time is in itself a mystery and one that can never be answered.  Even as far back as October 1821 a deluge of correspondence ensued in the London press on the subject. During all this time and even until her death Caroline herself kept a low profile bringing up her large family here in Carmarthen, many of whom died in infancy.

Apart from the historical interest we must not forget that architecturally, the Dalton/Prytherch memorial is significant in that it remains one of the few cemetery structures in existence with a now complete set of magnificent and ornate Coalbrookdale cast iron railings giving a prime example of Victorian architecture at its very best.  What follows are extracts taken from a variety of sources on the families past published a number of years ago. History cannot be re-written and it is for each individual to make their own minds up as to what they really believe happened. Finally, once you have finished reading this story you will see a few photographs of the restoration process of the box tomb itself and the railings at the end. I wish therefore  to direct you to the sub heading of MEMORIAL RESTORATION which can be found elsewhere on this website and scroll down the list to find the story of the restoration of this grave. It has taken five years to complete, but worth every moment.

Photograph of Caroline Georgiana Catherine Prytherch taken in 1871 – Four years before she died in 1875. She was the last family member to be buried in St Davids. (By kind permission of Robin Prytherch)

…………………………………………”The eleventh century church of St. Peter’s is currently being given a much needed ‘face-lift’. Part of the million pound restoration programme is removing the existing chancel floor and constructing a new concrete replacement. However, what was found underneath the chancel was a surprise to everyone and an extremely important find historically”

The chancel floor was subsiding and had to be replaced. After the original floor was removed, the archaeologists moved in and excavated to a depth of a little over a meter. They uncovered several memorial slabs from the 1870’s but it is a large brick vault in the centre that caused the greatest jubilation. It has a domed roof and the memorial slab reads as follows:

 

In this vault are deposited the remains of

Charlotte Augusta Catherine Dalton,

eldest daughter of James Dalton Esquire,

formerly of this town and of

Bangalore in the East Indies,

she died on the 2nd Day of August, 1832

aged 27 years.

Also the remains of Margaret Augusta Dalton

second daughter of Daniel Prytherch, Esquire

of this town and Abergele, in this county,

by Caroline his wife,

youngest daughter of the above

James Dalton,

she died on the 24th day of January 1839

in the Ninth Year of her age

 

Who was Charlotte Augusta Catherine Dalton? Who was her young niece? To find out, we must now move back in time two and a half centuries.

We’ve all heard of the’ Madness of King George’ but it doesn’t end there! Poor George III was supposed to have married at least three wives!

One ‘wife’ was a Maria Fitzherbert. Another that he had been in love with was a Sarah Lennox. He married his Queen Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1761 when he was 22 years. But was she the real Queen? Had he married before?

Prince George, Prince of Wales, had in fact, fallen in love with and married a Quaker girl, Hannah Lightfoot, three years previously in 1759. It is understood that she was the daughter of a linen-draper. The marriage and the existence of their children were kept secret to allow him to re-marry. They married at Kew (on the outskirts of London) on 17 April 1759 and the marriage documents can be seen at the Public Record Office there. Therefore, his later marriage to Queen Charlotte in 1761 was in fact a bigamous one. This second marriage lasted for 57 years and they had fifteen children.

What happened to Hannah after this is lost in the mists of time. Doubtless to say, her existence and that of their children was one of the greatest secrets of the 18th Century. It is understood that King George’s two ‘marriages’ co-existed and that his children from Hannah did not ‘arrive’ until long after his ‘marriage’ to the Queen.

It is understood that King George and his secret wife, Hannah had three children – two sons and one daughter. The eldest is reputed to be George Rex. He is reputed to have sailed to Cape Town, South Africa, in 1797 to save the monarchy from scandal. It is also understood that he never married- on the strict instructions of his father – so that there would be no legitimate heirs. It is said, however, that he did have children – two boys.  It is though, the daughter, of Hannah – Catherine Augusta that married James Dalton, a doctor of medicine, in India on 20 October 1801.

James Dalton, who originated from Carmarthen, was a medical  officer  in the Bengal Army and spent some years in Bangalore in the East Indies. He was probably a descendent of the Dalton family who, in the 18th Century, lived at Clog y Fran House, near St. Clears (a town some ten miles from Carmarthen). It is understood that Catherine died in 1813 in Madras but not before she had borne him four children – two sons and two daughters. It is understood that all four children were baptised in Madras on the 20 October, 1813.

It is said that Dr. James Dalton returned to Britain on the 16th September 1823. His two sons and Charlotte did not live very long after this. Charlotte died on 2 August 1832 aged 26 years and was buried in St. Peter’s Church, Carmarthen. It is not known whether the burial was a secret affair, but certainly no record was kept and knowledge of the burial was not handed down through the generations. It is also known from the Dalton family that they had no knowledge of the burial place. For her tomb to be within the chancel and directly in front of the altar surely suggests that she was considered to be someone extremely important.

Charlotte’s sister, Caroline, had also settled in Carmarthen and married Daniel Prytherch. Prytherch was distantly related to her, there having been a marriage between the Daltons and Prytherchs prior to this. They had 13 children*. Two of the children were David and Margaret who died as a child of eight years and was buried with her aunt in the tomb. Daniel Prytherch, Caroline’s husband, was a prominent person in the town and was sometime, its Mayor. His family home was Abergole (or Abergolau) House at nearby Brechfa and this remained in the family until 1859 when David Dalton Prytherch died unmarried.

Does the royal connection with St. Peter’s Parish end there? Well, no it doesn’t! There is another interesting link. The church’s magnificent eighteenth century organ was originally meant for the Chapel at Windsor. The best organ builder of the time, George Pike England, had been ordered by the king to build a great organ for his beloved home at Windsor (one of the official homes of the reigning monarch). However the organ never reached its intended destination. It found its way to Carmarthen. Was it the King’s wish that it should go to St. Peter’s? It is unlikely that we shall ever know the answer.

Ironically, it was the organ that helped us to make the other connection between the King and the church. It was the great weight of the organ that caused the subsidence and the need for a new floor and the bringing to light of the Dalton tombs.

The following text is from an article by Byron Rogers, which appeared in the Saga Magazine:

Scandal Unearthed!

The poetry of history lies in the quasi-miraculous fact that once, on this earth, once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women, as actual as we are today, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all gone, one generation vanishing after another, gone as utterly as we ourselves shall shortly be gone, like ghosts at cock-crow. So writes G. M. Trevelyan in his “Autobiography of an Historian”

And among them there were mysteries, writes Byron Rogers.

They have put two foot of concrete over it, just as they did at Chernobyl, but already it is too late. Though the concrete has set, rumour is out, and a story already 250 years old is moving irresistibly into what may be its last act. If you have prayers to spare, say them now for the vicar of St Peter’s church, Carmarthen, in the West of Wales.

“When I was appointed seven years ago I was told I was being given the plum of the diocese. All I can say is that this plum has a stone in it. It has now got to the point where, during a clerical conference in Dublin, my mobile rang and there was this American voice on the phone. The Discovery TV Channel in the States wanted to come over to do DNA tests on someone buried in my church two centuries ago”.

The Rev was having some building work done to his church and St Peter’s, being Grade One listed, had, as required, sent in the archaeologists first, for this is a church so old it has a pagan Roman altar in its porch. The archaeologists assured him they would not be long, that they did not anticipate finding anything very interesting. And then they found something, the implication of which, to quote the Journal of British Archaeology, casts doubt on the legitimacy of the Queen.

Oh dear, said the vicar, Gordon Bennett, said I, for I was brought up in the town of Carmarthen.

But really it starts with the organ. The organ at St Peter’s was always a bit of a mystery, being so very big and grand, far too big and grand for a Welsh parish church. Originally intended for Windsor Castle, this was delivered to Carmarthen in 1796, and the tradition is that it was a personal gift from George III. The result, if you excuse the pun, is that the King’s organ points to what follows. For the organ was sinking. It had sunk eight inches into the chancel floor, said the organist, Paul Watkins. This, we were told, was because there were so many tombs beneath it. But it was when a lady put her foot through the floor during a midnight mass that we knew we were going to have to do something about it.

It was decided that a concrete raft was needed to halt the subsidence, which was when the archaeologists came in. A week after they started work, a team from Cambria Archaeology found a brick barrel vault in the centre of the chancel, in front of the altar, the most prestigious place in a church. And that was the first incredible thing, said the Rev Thomas. There was no historical account of such a vault in any of the church records, and there was no gravestone. If there had been a gravestone that disappeared when in Victorian times a new floor was laid, just as though someone wanted to hide it. You can see how we come to believe in a conspiracy theory.

When a vault is built a gravestone is usually part of the upper floor. Below are laid the earthly remains of one’s body. Here there was none. But as the archaeologists dug on they found a gravestone laid next to the brick vault, where the living would not see it.

The inscription read: In this vault are deposited the remains of Charlotte Augusta Catherine Dalton, eldest daughter of James Dalton Esquire, formerly of this town and of Bangalore in the East Indies. She died on the 2nd day of August, 1832, aged 27 years. Also the remains of Margaret Augusta Dalton, second daughter of Daniel Prytherch, Esq. of this town and of Abergole in this county, by Caroline his wife, youngest daughter of the above James Dalton. She died on the 24th day of January 1839 in the Ninth Year of her age. But when they peered into the vault there were four coffins. And then those names, too strange and grand for a Welsh family, and yet oddly familiar to anyone with a sense of history. That these were family names was clear for they occurred in two generations.

The burial records were checked, which confirmed only that persons of that name had been buried there. They then checked the records of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society and found references in a 1911 essay to the Dalton family. It was then that the bells of rumour and conjecture began to toll, which in one context or another have been tolling for more than 200 years.

In the reference section of your local library, ask to see the Dictionary of National Biography. Now look up Lightfoot, Hannah, and you will read the following entry, the briefest in the DNB: Lightfoot, Hannah (fl. 1768), the beautiful Quakeress. (See under George III). Oh dear.

The relevant section refers to his teenage years, when he was still Prince of Wales. To this period belongs the scandal about the Prince’s attachment to Hannah Lightfoot, the fair Quaker, daughter or niece of a linen draper, whose shop was in St James’s Market. This is that part of London, which later disappeared under Regent Street.

The entry resumes. It is said that through the intervention of Elizabeth Chudleigh, who became Duchess of Kingston, he persuaded her to leave her home, and go through the form of marriage with one Axford, and that he frequently met her afterwards, and it is even pretended that he secretly married her, and had a daughter by her, who became the wife of a man called Dalton!

A man called Dalton; James Dalton, a doctor from Carmarthen, later in the employ of the East India Company, who called one of his own daughters Charlotte Augusta, and the other Margaret Augusta. George III’s mother and a daughter were called Augusta; another daughter was called Charlotte. Both names recur in generation after generation of the 18th-century Royal Family.

The official entry of James Dalton in the Indian Medical Services names of Surgeons held by the British Library

All of which left a very shaken clergyman in Carmarthen. The next thing I knew was that members of the Axford family had written to me, said Reverend Thomas. They said they had a copy of the marriage certificate between the King and Hannah Lightfoot, on which one of the witnesses was William Pitt the Elder. They also had a copy of Hannah’s will in which she signs herself Hannah Regina.

And then the Dalton Society of America wrote, saying they intended to come over and hold tours of the church.

A man who only wanted to have his chancel made safe for the future was caught in a tide of bizarre controversy. The DNB, while admitting that George III as a teenage Prince of Wales probably knew Hannah Lightfoot, dismisses the rest of the story on the grounds that it rests merely on anonymous letters of a late date. But this is not so.

George III became King in 1760 at the age of 22. But 10 years later, when his brother the Duke of Cumberland was cited by a wronged husband, the Public Advertiser newspaper of 1770 was already referring archly to the Letters of an Elder Brother to a Fair Quaker. In 1776 The Citizen, with heavy irony, mentioned The History and Adventures of Miss Lightfoot, the Fair Quaker, wherein will be faithfully portrayed some striking picture of female constancy and princely gratitude which terminated in the untimely death of that lady and the sudden death of her disconsolate mother. In other words, the story was common knowledge very early on.

These are the only known facts. Hannah was born into a Quaker family in 1730 in Wapping. Her father, a shoemaker, died when she was small, when she was adopted by her mother’s brother, and the linen draper of St James’s Market. But then in 1756 something amazing happened. She was thrown out of the Quakers on a charge of having been married by a priest to Some Person Unknown. After this, perhaps even more amazing, she could not be found, even though the Society made strenuous efforts to find her.

The well-known 18th-century writer, William Combe, later the author of the best-selling Dr Syntax verses, pointed to the significance of this expulsion. With such suitable precautions was the intrigue conducted, that if the body of people called Quakers, of which this young lady was a member, had not divulged the fact by the public proceedings of their meting concerning, it would in all probability have remained a matter of doubt to this day.

The only thing was, Hannah had been married in 1753 to a man called Isaac Axford, a grocer of Ludgate Hill, and thus not Some Person Unknown. But the sequel was the same, when Mary Pendered in 1910 wrote the only book on Hannah Lightfoot; she claimed to have made contact with the great-great-granddaughter of Isaac Axford by his second marriage in 1759. From her she heard the account handed down in the family that had Hannah being taken away from her groom at the church door, driven off in a travelling coach and never being seen again.

The Monthly Magazine of 1825 has a slightly different story. Its correspondent had contacted the Axford family, then still grocers on Ludgate Hill, who told him that Hannah had lived with her husband for six weeks until the night the coach and four called. The family had advertised widely for her whereabouts, but after some time obtained information that she was well provided for.

The 19th century, and its republican sympathizers, had a field day with the story. It was now that the story of an actual marriage with George III surfaced, something not mentioned before. Charles Bradlaugh, later an MP, stated that Queen Charlotte, after Hannah’s death, insisted on her own second and secret marriage with George III and that Prinny, the notorious Prince of Wales and their first-born, later George IV, used the story to blackmail his parents.

It gets even more complicated. The Historical Fragment, an anonymous publication, stated in 1824 that Caroline, the estranged wife of George IV, who had died three years earlier, had said openly that she was neither wife nor Queen. The first was because George IV was a bigamist, which was true, for he was already married to Mrs Fitzherbert. But the second claim was much more startling. Caroline was not a Queen because George III, when he married Queen Charlotte, was already married to Hannah Lightfoot, which would have made George IV illegitimate.

George I imprisoned his wife for life for adultery, and plotted to have his son, the Prince of Wales, kidnapped and transported to America. He, in turn, simply wished his son dead and said so in public. George III leaped at his son’s throat and tried to throttle him.

But it is the generation we are concerned with, George III and his brothers, who introduced a new twist of their own, secret marriages. The Duke of Cumberland, already paying out £10,000 to a wronged husband, was secretly married to a widow called Horton in 1770. His brother, the Duke of Gloucester, admitted in 1772 that he had been married for six years. Their nephew, later George IV, secretly married Mrs Fitzherbert. But their sister, being already married and the Queen of Denmark had no such recourse. She was locked away for life for adultery, and her lover, the Prime Minister of Denmark, was hacked into pieces by the public executioner.

Such would have been the diet available to readers of an 18th-century Hello magazine.

The point is, no contemporary would have thought it that bizarre that George III had married Hannah Lightfoot, and the story never went away. Cassell’s History of England, written in Victorian times and the most popular history ever (it still turns up in country house sales), presented it as historical fact, saying it had taken place in 1759 at Kew, and that documentary evidence survived.

The Irish politician Daniel O’Connell said he had once thought of writing a novel about a son of this marriage, making him a revolutionary soldier of fortune. Mrs Piozzi, Dr Johnson’s friend, wrote in 1781 that there was such a son in real life. Speculation turns on a man said to have been called George Rex, an 18th-century immigrant to South Africa, who was mysteriously set up there in great style, and whose black descendants survive. They were interviewed by the documentary film maker, Kenneth Griffiths, who said, “I started by not believing the story, and ended up convinced it was true”

The DNB does not mention George Rex whose name alone seems too good to be true.

So did George III marry Hannah Lightfoot? Did this odd, impulsive, not too bright, and lonely young man, who had been kept in virtual seclusion, rebel once before destiny closed in on him? As a young king he seemed to have brooded a lot on this destiny, confiding in the Duke of Chandos that, unlike him, the Duke was a happy man, in that he would never have to take into his arms a woman he had never even seen before. Of course he then did and had 15 children by a woman said to have been the plainest in Europe. But does that worry, and those early doubts suggest that he had known some kind of happiness which sent these into even higher relief?

But where the mystery really deepens is around Hannah. She marries Axford, but it is a very dodgy marriage, conducted for cash without license or banns in the 18th century by very dodgy clergymen. And it took place in the chapel of one Alexander Keith, a clergyman so dodgy he was excommunicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, whom the Rev Keith himself excommunicated in turn. Why should a respectable grocer and a linen drapers niece have themselves married in such a place?

And there is more. A portrait survives by Sir Joshua Reynolds. The 1817 catalogue of pictures in the great house Knole, near Sevenoaks, says it is of Miss (sic) Axford. This is the Fair Quaker noticed by His Majesty when Prince of Wales. George III was then still alive. The portrait shows a serious young woman in white, and it is a face more interesting than pretty. But why should the most fashionable portraitist of his day have painted a grocer’s wife?

Nobody knows how the picture got to Knole. But then nobody knows what became of Hannah, who in the late 1750s just disappears from the face of the earth. There is no record of any attempt by her, or any member of her family, to profit from what may have happened. Everything is so quiet, so discreet, just as the vault in St Peter’s church is quiet and discreet, even more so under tons of concrete. But the gravestone, lost until now, will be laid in the new floor. There is no mention of a mother and no grand claims. Just those strange names. But it is enough to have the Discovery Channel tracing a Welsh vicar to an Irish conference, for the story has never gone away, which now moves into its Carmarthen Connection.

Side of the box tomb and railings of the Prytherch family before restoration began. Almost invisible due to the Ivy growth.
Corner of the tomb and railings before restoration began.
The box tomb dismantled and removed by crane leaving the internal rubble visible. Note all the missing finials.
Five years later – the completed memorial and railings in all its glory.


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