Valentia v. Valentia

William’s younger sister Anne married George Annesley at Powderham in Devon on 3 September 1790. The couple became known as lady and lord Valentia from December 1793. The first of Anne’s children, George Arthur Annesley, was born on 2 October 1793; her second child, William Annesley, was born towards the end of 1795 or early in 1796.

In 1796 George set out on the long road towards a dissolution of his marriage. In 1799 he obtained a sentence of divorce a mensa et thoro in a Church of England court, which allowed the couple to separate without dissolving the marriage and making the children illegitimate. George then failed with his petition for an act of parliament which alone would have allowed him to marry another woman before Anne died.

When Anne died in January 1835, she was still married to George. Her two eldest children also died before him. George lived on until July 1844 but did not make a second marriage.

Stages on the route to divorce

  • writ of Habeas Corpus: Court of King’s Bench, London, 1796 April 29 and May 7. Anne was ordered to hand over her son George Arthur Annesley to her husband lord Valentia. The proceedings were recorded in a pamphlet published that year in Kidderminster (Worcestershire, England): Proceedings in the Court of King’s Bench, ex parte George Viscount Valentia. Extracts from that text are transcribed below.
  • trial of John Gawler for Criminal Conversation with lady Valentia: Court of King’s Bench, London, 1796 (Thursday) May 19. John Gawler was found guilty and ordered to pay damages of £2,000 to lord Valentia. Valentia had sought damages of £10,000; the award of a much lower amount suggests that the jury probably believed him to have condoned or even encouraged the relationship between Anne and John Gawler. The proceedings were recorded in a pamphlet published that year in London: The Genuine Trial of John B. Gawler, Esq. for Criminal Conversation with the Right Hon. Lady Valentia.
  • proceedings of lord Valentia against lady Valentia for Divorce a Mensa et Thoro: Consistory Court of London, 1799 April 9. The Church of England court awarded a sentence of divorce against Anne for adultery with John Bellenden Gawler. The charge and the sentence were noted in the Journals of the House of Lords, volume 42, pages 203 & 231.
  • bill for an act of parliament to dissolve the marriage between lord Valentia and ‘the Honourable Ann Courtenay his now wife’: House of Lords, Westminster, 1799 May 10, May 27 & June 5. The first reading of the bill was heard on 10 May; the second reading began on 27 May and was to continue on 5 June, but on that day lord Valentia was unable to produce some witnesses who were out of the kingdom (Great Britain) and he was allowed to withdraw the bill. The proceedings were recorded in the Journals of the House of Lords, volume 42, pages 203, 227-232 & 246.

Proceedings in the Court of King’s Bench, ex parte George Viscount Valentia. 1796

April 26th, 1796.

Mr. Erskine, on the part of Lord Valentia, moved for a writ of Habeas Corpus to bring up the body of George Arthur Annesley, his Lordship’s infant son. He then delivered in the following affidavit, which was read in Court.

Affidavit of the Right Honourable George Annesley, commonly called Viscount Valentia, of the Kingdom of Ireland. Sworn April 26th, 1796.

  • Saith, That on or about the month of September, 1790, deponent married the Honourable Anne Courtenay, daughter of the late William Viscount Courtenay, and that there is issue of the said marriage one son, named George Arthur Annesley, who […]

Several pages are missing here before page 6 where the affidavit of Anne viscountess Valentia continues, as below.

Affidavit of Viscountess Valentia and (in part only) of Jane Smith:

  • and gave deponent great reason to suspect that she did not in any manner possess his esteem or love; for which conduct deponent was then totally unable to account, inasmuch as deponent endeavoured by all means in her power to conciliate his affections.
  • Saith, That in or about the latter end of the year 1791, deponent and said Viscount Valentia went to reside at Areley, in the county of Stafford, when deponent perceived that the dislike and aversion of the said Viscount Valentia to deponent very much increased, and he appeared anxious to avoid deponent’s company, and sought every pretence to treat deponent with harshness and severity.
  • Saith, That about last-mentioned time, deponent observed great intimacy to subsist between a young man of the name of George (who was livery servant to said Viscount Valentia) and said Viscount.
  • Saith, That during such intimacy said Viscount spent most of his time in company with said George, and they were frequently playing and toying together with each other, and deponent observed said Viscount to pinch said George, and to make use of most indecent familiarities with and toward said George.
  • Saith, That said Viscount frequently retired to his bedroom early in the evening in company with said George, with whom he remained several hours, and when deponent went up stairs to bed found said George in the room without his shoes and perceived the bed had been laid upon.
  • And deponent Viscountess Valentia and Jane Smith severally say, That said Viscount frequently early in the morning quitted the bed in which he slept, and went without any other clothes than his shirt and bedgown into the garrets, where the then servants, and particularly said George then slept, and deponents then heard them making a great noise and at play with each other.
  • Deponents have been informed, and believe it to be true, that the said Viscount pulled the clothes off the beds of the said servants before they were up, and behaved in the most indecent manner.
  • Say, That the said Viscount frequently quitted the apartment in which he had been used to sleep with deponent Anne, and went into a separate bed, and said George upon such occasions used to lie or pretended to lie upon a small mattress in the bedroom of said Viscount, and deponent Smith is the better able to depose thereto, inasmuch as she was house-maid to said Viscount, and made the beds, and had frequent opportunities of observing the conduct of said Viscount with regard to the above mentioned circumstances.
  • And deponent Anne saith, That said Viscount about same time became extremely intimate with his coachman, and said Viscount frequently quitted deponent’s bed early in the morning, and went without any other clothes than his shirt and bedgown, to the apartment of said coachman before said coachman was up, and spent several hours there with him; encouraged him and said George to behave with the greatest insolence to deponent; and deponent, becoming extremely uneasy at such conduct of said Viscount, complained to her friends, who thereupon represented to said Viscount the infamy of his behaviour, and advised him, in presence of deponent, to part with his said servants; and said Viscount being much alarmed did accordingly send George away but being uneasy at his absence, said Viscount took said George again into his service, and he and said George afterwards travelled abroad together.
  • Saith, That she verily believes, that the intimacy of said Viscount with said servants was attended with circumstances of the most criminal nature.
  • Saith, That said Viscount often in her presence made use of the most licentious and indecent conversation, and always encouraged such discourse in her company; and humbly submits, whether said Viscount is a proper person to have the care of and superintending the education of said George Arthur Annesley.
  • Saith, That she does not cohabit with, nor has any adulterous conversation with John Bellenden Gawler, in the affidavit of the said Viscount named, and that she has been and now is frequently visited by her relations.

Mr. Gibbs moved, That the child ought not to be taken from its mother, and delivered up to its father, after the affidavit that he had then produced.

Lord Kenyon said that it was a very unfortunate affair, and that he wished some person could be found, to whom they could both consent to surrender the custody of the child.

Mr. Erskine declined this, and said that he had no doubt Lord Valentia would be able to disprove every charge contained in Lady Valentia’s affidavit.

The cause was ordered to stand over.

May 7th, 1796.

Mr. Erskine said, he was about to lay before the Court those affidavits, which had been made by Lord Valentia and others, in answer to the affidavits that were put in, in consequence of an Habeas Corpus being applied for by his Lordship to bring up the body of his infant son. Mr. Erskine very fully opened the nature of the affidavits; which were then read in Court, as follows.

Affidavit of the Right Honourable George Annesley Viscount Valentia. Sworn May 7th, 1796.

  • States, That about the 6th of September, 1790, deponent intermarried with Viscountess Valentia, daughter of the late William Viscount Courtenay; which marriage, on the part of deponent, took place entirely from affection.
  • That George Kingsbury, the person alluded to in the affidavit of said Viscountess, lived with deponent as his valet, and was of course much about his person; and from and during all the time that his said servant was in attendance upon him as aforesaid he never was guilty of the detestable vice insinuated against him by the affidavit of the said Viscountess Valentia, nor of any unnatural or indecent familiarity; nor was the attendance of the said George upon deponent with a view to any such unnatural practice, or for any criminal partiality for said George Kingsbury, but merely for the necessary attendance on deponent in his illness; and that during such attendance said George Kingsbury slept on a bed or mattress for that purpose, to the knowledge of said Lady Valentia.
  • That he was sometimes ill and much indisposed, and therefore obliged to sleep in a separate room from said Viscountess; said Viscountess, upon retiring from his bedside, used to send said George Kingsbury to attend deponent.
  • That he was not accustomed to sleep separate from his said wife, except in cases of real illness, absence from home, or indisposition of said Viscountess; and that the dress, in which he is represented by the affidavit of said Viscountess and Jane Smith to have called the servants, was and still is his ordinary morning dress, and in which he has walked considerable distances from his house, and that he used commonly to remain in that dress till the middle of the day, and used frequently to walk out in it, and has often walked miles and inspected what improvements and works he was engaged in, in that dress.
  • That in the garrets referred to in Lady Valentia’s affidavit, four, five, and six men servants generally slept.
  • Admits, that when he was up before the servants, he has frequently gone to call them.
  • That about the time alleged in said affidavit, deponent had a coachman named Henry Edmonds, who, as deponent has been informed and believes, now lives and lately did live in the service or family of Thomas Clarke Jervoise, Esq. that said coachmen used to sleep in same building with the stables, a considerable distance from the house, with the rest of the stablemen.
  • That he has frequently gone to the stable to call said coachman, in manner deponent called the other servants, when deponent was up earlier than the rest of the family; but deponent positively denies, that he ever spent any considerable portion of time with said coachman, other than when deponent was looking over his stables, or at his carriages and horses. And
  • Deponent, in the most solemn manner, in the presence of God, denies, that he ever went to said coachman, or the room where said coachman and the other servants, or either or any of them slept, for the horrid purpose imputed to deponent by the false affidavit of deponent’s wife, or that he ever thought of committing such an horrible and detestable crime.
  • That he does most positively deny, that in consequence of any complaint made by deponent’s wife to any of her friends, or of their representing to deponent the infamy of deponent’s conduct in regard to the crime, so falsely and wickedly imputed to deponent, he ever turned away said George Kingsbury or any servant whatsoever; nor did deponent ever hear, until after he had discovered the adultery of his wife, of any such horrible crime being imputed to deponent.
  • That deponent, in beginning of 1793, finding his circumstances extremely embarrassed, partly owing to his never having spared any expence to gratify the wishes of his said wife, and partly from his own imprudence, deponent did, by the advice and suggestion of his friends, consent to break up his establishment.
  • That said Henry Edmonds and the rest of the stable servants were thereupon dismissed, in or about the latter end of January, 1793; and that the said George Kingsbury and many other of the house servants were discharged in or about the month of February following.
  • That his sole reason for dismissing the servants arose from motives of economy, and none other.
  • That in May, 1793, deponent went to London with John Maxwell, Esq. his brother-in-law, on business; at which time said George Kingsbury happened to be out of place, and that deponent having no servant with him, said George Kingsbury did offer to attend him while he remained in town, which offer deponent accepted.
  • That said Mr. Maxwell, who lived in same house in town with deponent, did urge him to take said George Kingsbury back again; but deponent having promised his friends never to increase his establishment, until deponent was freed from his embarrassments, without the consent of Wilson Aylesbury Roberts, Esq. and of Henry Gawler, Esq. this deponent’s trustee on his settlement with his creditors, he applied to those gentlemen for liberty to hire said George Kingsbury again, which they both readily and cheerfully gave; which application was made in the presence of said Mr. Maxwell.
  • That in the beginning of the year 1794, deponent’s affairs, which were under the care and management of Mr. John Gawler (father to said John Bellenden Gawler), grew so desperate, and his creditors so urgent, that he was obliged to quit England, and that said George Kingsbury did attend deponent to Germany and Flanders.
  • Denies in the most solemn manner, in the presence of God, and as he hopes for eternal salvation, that he ever had any criminal, improper, unmanly or indecent intercourse or familiarity of any nature or kind soever with said George Kingsbury, or said Henry Edmonds, or any other person; as is wickedly, falsely and scandalously insinuated in the affidavit of said Viscountess Valentia: and deponent ever had and still has an abhorrence of all abominable, unnatural practices or propensities.
  • That, previous to the seduction of Lady Valentia by John Bellenden Gawler, they lived in mutual affection; and that no charge or suggestion of the unnatural propensities, imputed to deponent by said affidavit, was ever made or insinuated by Lady Valentia. And
  • Deponent verily believes that the same is made with a view to destroy the honour of deponent, and to protect said John Bellenden Gawler against an action, which deponent has commenced, and is still depending against said John Bellenden Gawler for the seduction of said Lady Valentia, and for the criminal conversation with her. And lastly,
  • That since the matter has been depending in this Honourable Court, he has obtained what he conceives to be strong evidence, that the attack upon deponent’s character has originated from the aforesaid combination and criminal connection between Lady Valentia and John Bellenden Gawler; inasmuch as said affidavit of Jane Smith, as deponent has been credibly informed and believes, was prepared after an examination of said Jane Smith for that purpose, in the presence of Lady Valentia, by Henry Gawler, the brother of said John Bellenden Gawler, against whom the action for the seduction of said Lady Valentia is now depending.

Affidavits of:

  • Henry Edmonds – coachman: does solemnly believe him [lord Valentia] to be incapable of any unmanly or unnatural practice.
  • Beaver and — Elliott – housekeeper and cook: never had any suspicion of the said Lord Valentia having any propensity to any unnatural intercourse or crime
  • John Maxwell married to Lady Lucy Maxwell, sister of Lord Valentia: convinced that the said Lord Valentia abhors and detests all abominable and unnatural propensities, and believes him incapable of harbouring an inclination of the kind.
  • William Goodwin – butler: never saw the least indecent familiarity between the said Lord Valentia and the said George [Kingsbury], or any other person
  • Mary Kennimore – lady V’s waiting-maid: the conduct of Lord Valentia appeared to her indulgent and affectionate towards Lady Valentia
  • Thomas Platt – servant: never saw the least indecent familiarity between his Lordship and said George [Kingsbury], or any other person whatever
  • Charles Hambling – footman: States,
    • That having heard that Jane Smith had joined in an affidavit with Anne Viscountess Valentia, touching the character of Lord Valentia, deponent on Tuesday evening last called upon said Jane Smith, who is servant to the said Viscountess, in Sloane-Street, and asked her, if she had made an affidavit against the said Lord Valentia, in which she reflected on him in a very shocking manner, or expressed himself to that effect.
    • That the said Jane Smith informed deponent, that she had made an affidavit, but was well convinced that what she had sworn would not injure Lord Valentia, nor had she anything to say against Lord Valentia that would hurt him in any respect. Deponent then told her, he understood that she had sworn a great deal against Lord Valentia, and asked her who she had seen and what had been said to her, or used words to that effect: the said Jane Smith said, that Mr. Gawler (meaning Mr. Henry Gawler) was with Lady Valentia on Saturday last (to the best of deponent’s recollection as to the time mentioned), that the said Jane Smith was called into the room and examined by Mr. Henry Gawler, who asked her, whether she recollected Lord Valentia’s going to call the men servants, and she told him she did recollect it. Mr. Henry Gawler then asked her, if she recollected his proceeding from thence to the stables to call the coachman; she said, she believed so: that Mr. Henry Gawler asked her, if she did not observe him to go out without anything on but his morning gown; she said did not examine whether he had anything under or not. Said Jane Smith also informed deponent, she had not sworn she had heard or believed Lord Valentia pulled the clothes off the servants’ bed, and had been at play with the men servants; if that was in the affidavit it was put in without her knowledge, or expressed herself to such effect. The said Jane Smith also informed deponent, that Mr. Henry Gawler asked her, if she did recollect Lord Valentia sleeping in a room from Lady Valentia, and she said she did recollect it, but it was when Lord Valentia was ill; and that Mr.Gawler asked her, if George did not sleep with Lord Valentia, and that she said, no, she was sure of that, as she and another servant, when George slept in the room with Lord Valentia, carried a bed down for George to sleep on: that Mr. Gawler then asked her, if George’s bed was not placed by the side of Lord Valentia’s; she said, no, it was on the other side of the room, or the said Jane Smith expressed herself to that effect. And the said Jane Smith further informed deponent, that she never had any suspicion of Lord Valentia being guilty of any crime with men, and that she had a very different opinion of him, and did not mean in her affidavit to insinuate any thing of the kind that would lead to suppose Lord Valentia had any such inclinations.
    • That deponent lived as footman with the said Lord Valentia from about the month of October, 1791, to the month of November, 1793.
    • That during all that time deponent never heard of the said Lord Valentia being suspected of the crime insinuated or imputed to him in Lady Valentia’s affidavit.
    • That deponent verily believes, that said Lord Viscount Valentia never was guilty of the crime insinuated in the said affidavit, and that he is incapable of any such practice.
  • James Fryer – surgeon: Lord Valentia is incapable of any disposition or propensity to the abominable crime insinuated in the affidavit of Anne Viscountess Valentia.
  • Benjamin Dugard – neighbour: [Lord Valentia] incapable of entertaining any unnatural propensity whatever

Mr. Garrow observed, that two propositions clearly resulted from these affidavits; the first was, that Lord Valentia was innocent, and that from the connection he had formed, he was one of the most unfortunate of men.

The next proposition was, that this was a foul and infamous conspiracy to destroy his honor, and to protect the man, who had wounded him in the most tender point. No mention was made of this charge, till after Lord Valentia had commenced an action against the man, who had seduced his Lady.

Mr. Gibbs, on the part of Lady Valentia, said, that he should not have permitted his learned friends to have gone the length to which they had gone, had he not perceived the situation in which they stood, being concerned not only for the child, but also to vindicate the honor of Lord Valentia; and therefore he wished to give them the fullest effect of the affidavits. They had certainly completely answered Lady Valentia’s affidavits. He admitted that on these affidavits this seemed to be a conspiracy; but the whole of the case would not be heard that day, and that therefore it was then rather premature to draw that conclusion.

Lord Kenyon. “As it is probable some parts of this case may come before the court hereafter, it would be very improper in me at present to express my sentiments at large upon the subject. I think the Counsel, who has just sat down, deserves the thanks of the public. All that has been laid before the Court on the part of Lord Valentia, comes home to the feelings of every breast, and independent of what has been so properly observed by Lady Valentia’s Counsel, I believe should have been inclined to have heard the cause up to the same extent, and drawn arguments from so doing from my own feelings as a man. The day of reckoning will come. At present, on these affidavits I am bound to say, the attack on Lord Valentia appears unwarrantable. If any inauspicious circumstances are hanging over the case, the day will come when they will be removed. I cannot forbear saying (perhaps it may be extrajudicial), though I only know Lord Valentia as a public character, when I went the Oxford Circuit, I have more than once seen him in the most honorable of all situations in which a country gentleman, as a member of society, can be placed – I have seen him at the head of the counties of Worcester and Stafford, as foreman of the grand jury, inserted in the society of the most honorable men there, and I protest I thought he very much became that situation. The child must be delivered over to his father.”




Engraved by Pollard from a drawing by Henry Salt: 1. A Samaulie 2. The son of the Dola of Moosa. Printed in the 1809 edition of George viscount Valentia’s Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, the Red Sea, Abyssinia, and Egypt in the years 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805 and 1806 (volume 2 between pages 376 and 377). Samaulie: Somali (on left of image); Dola: governor; Moosa: al-Muza near Mocha, Yemen.    

Richard Cosway, Anne Courtenay.

Page history

  • 2018 July 10: first published online.
  • 2020 March 31: reviewed; minor corrections to punctuation and spelling but no content added.

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