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Anne Catley

Anne Catley ( 1745 - 1789 )

Anne Catley was born in 1745. Her family lived on Tower Hill where her father was a hackney coachman and her mother a washerwoman. She was a very pretty child and as early as 1755 she amused the officers stationed at the Tower by her singing. About 1760, her voice having attracted the notice of William Bates, a west-end musician, he and her father entered into a bond for 200 that he was to feed and clothe the girl, train her, and get her a public engagement. Her beauty and the freedom of her manners quickly made her notorious and in 1763 her father took process in the king's bench to force Bates to produce her in court, as it was rumoured that she had been basely handed over to a young baronet, Sir Francis Blake Delaval. Her father was now the Quaker Robert Barclay's coachman, Barclay obtained legal assistance for him, and Delaval, Bates, and Delaval's attorney, Frayne, were fined by Lord Mansfield for conspiring to deprive Catley of the custody of his daughter.

Although Delaval subsequently set Anne up in good lodgings and gave her a weekly allowance she was not faithful to him; she was mercenary and there were several lovers from whom she assembled a collection of jewellery. Anne bore Delaval two children and there was another, whose father, she claimed, was the Duke of York. Eventually Delaval discovered her infidelity and threw her out, leaving her to her own devices.

At this time Anne was really beautiful, could sing divinely and act well. She commanded a tremendous salary and was constantly in the news; today she would have been regarded as a 'megastar'. In Dublin in 1763 she sang at a salary of forty guineas per night; she was a great success and the ladies of Dublin had their hair 'Catleyfied,' i.e. dressed as she dressed hers. From 1770 when she returned to England until her retirement in 1784 she both delighted English society with her singing and scandalised it with her loose behaviour. Whilst in Dublin she had met Francis Lascelles, then a dragoon. By 1780 he had become a Major-General and they were living in a handsome house at Ealing bought by Anne out of her own fortune. She became a most respected figure in the neighbourhood, and was Lady Bountiful to the poor.

Anne and Francis appear to have had ten children, the IGI records the baptisms of five of them, eight are mentioned in Anne's will:
  • Francis Lascelles, born 25th November 1768, married Margaret dau of William Bushby of Tinwald, Dumfrieshire at Dumfries on 28th September 1793
  • Edward Paoli Lascelles, baptised at St Martin in the Fields on 3rd September 1770
  • Hugh Lascelles, baptised at St Paul Covent Garden on 6th July 1772
  • Frances Lascelles, baptised at St Martin in the Fields on 18th April 1774, married Robert Jenner
  • Rowley Lascelles, baptised at St Martin in the Fields on 20th February 1775
  • Jane Lascelles, married Montagu John Wynyard BD, Chaplain to the Queen
  • Charlotte Lascelles, married Hon & Very Revd. Edward Rice, Lord Wynver and Dean of Gloucester on 9th July 1800. She died on 26th February 1832
  • George Robert Lascelles, died 1824
  • Elizabeth Lascelles, born on 30th November 1784, died 1828, married Rt. Hon Sir Herbert Jenner Fust in 1803
  • Edward Robert Lascelles, born in 1787, married Anne Taylor of Camberwell, Surrey at Lambeth in 1808
n.b. I am grateful to Roger D. Lascelles for much of the information about Anne's children.
All the above appear to have been accepted by Francis Lascelles as his children, although when one considers Anne's scandalous lifestyle it seems unlikely that he was the father of all of them. Anne died of consumption at her house in Ealing on 14th October 1789, she was buried at St. Mary's Church Ealing on 21st October 1789.

Her obituary in The Times (15th October 1789) reads:

Yesterday morning, at two o'clock, died, after a long and most afflicting illness, Mrs. LASCELLES, wife of General LASCELLES. - In her public character, she was the delight of the British nation and in her character of the several relative situations of mother, wife and friend, she will ever be revered by those who had the opportunity of witnessing her affectionate conduct towards her husband and her children and her generous sincerity towards those for whom she proferred friendship. To the weak and censorious, the only answer is 'Go thou and do likewise'.

Anne Catley and Francis Lascelles were said to have married in 1780 - however no record of this marriage has been found. She left her entire estate (amounting to some 5,000) to her children and her will, signed Anne Cateley, makes no mention of 'my husband' although referring to 'Major General Francis Lascelles' both as the father of her children and as her executor. Furthermore, Richard Atkinson who swore the affidavit to her will refers to Anne as a 'spinster'. This, and the fact that before the Married Women's Property Act of 1882 a married woman could not, by law, own property in her own right, strongly suggests that Anne and Francis Lascelles were not married (or if they were, succeeded in keeping the fact a secret).

Anne Catley's Relatives
  • Anne's father was coachman to Robert Barclay, a Quaker merchant, his forename is unknown at present.
  • The article by MacQueen-Pope (see below) mentions that Anne had a sister named named Mary, "for whom she did not care much, but who came in useful. Miss Anne was hot-tempered, and when things went wrong, poor Mary became the victim of her violence, even to receiving a black eye. Mary, a trim little person who might have been pretty had not the smallpox marred her face, got tired of that and ran away. She could sing a little and got a stage job, and was able to hide her blemishes with make-up."
  • The two nephews Robert and William Fox referred to in the Codicil to Anne's will were presumably the sons of Jane Catley and James Fox, whose marriage allegation, dated 11th June 1765, stated that they were to be married at St George, Bloomsbury. This marriage has not been found, but it may be supposed that Jane was Anne's sister.
  • According to the Dictionary of National Biography, Elizabeth Lascelles, the daughter of Lieutenant-General Francis Lascelles born on 30th March 1784 (who was almost certainly Anne Catley's daughter), married Sir Herbert Jenner-Fust on 14th September 1803. Elizabeth and Herbert's daughter (Anne Catley's granddaughter) Anne married the Rev. Evan Nepean, later Canon of Westminster Abbey, on 15th September 1832. She had eight sons and six daughters, three of whom were married at Westminster Abbey, at least four of her grandchildren were baptised there. Anne Nepean was buried at Westminster Abbey on 11th September 1871, aged 63 years.
Anne Catley's Will (PRO Ref PROB 11/1183 F373-4) [punctuated to improve legibility]

I hereby declare the following to be my last and only will that is to say that at the time of my death I leave to my children Francis Lascelles, Rowley Lascelles, Frances Lascelles, Charlotte Lascelles, Jane Lascelles, George Robert Lascelles, Elizabeth Lascelles and Edward Robert Lascelles all the money now and at that time belonging to me to be equally divided amongst them share and share alike and if any of my children above mentioned should die before me I hereby direct and appoint my whole property to be equally divided amongst such of them as may be living at the time of my decease and it is my desire that their father Major General Francis Lascelles will see this my last will properly and in fairly executed and that in case any of my children as and before mentioned shall not have attained the age of twenty one years at the time of my death that the said Major General Lascelles will take care that their respective shares be bought into the funds of England and that the Interest thereof if necessarily go towards their education maintenance, etc. Those children that shall be twenty one years of age when I die are to be paid their proportions immediately after my death and to all the rest as soon as they shall have attained the above mentioned age and my further will is that all my wearing apparel, watch, trinkets etc. be given to my eldest daughter who shall be living at the time of my death. Given under my hand at Little Ealing this 13th day of October 1788. A Cateley, witness Joseph Nield.

I appoint the said Major General Lascelles sole executor of this my last will and testament. A Cateley, witness Joseph Nield.

In addition to the will I made yesterday I require my Executor Major General Francis Lascelles to pay to my two nephews Robert and William Fox the sum of fifty pounds each six months after my death. Little Ealing October the 14th 1788. A Cateley, witness Joseph Nield.

Appeared Personally Richard Atkinson of the parish of Ealing in the County of Middlesex yeoman and made oath that he knew and was well acquainted with Ann Cateley formerly of the parish of Saint Pancras in the County of Middlesex but late of the said parish of Ealing spinster deceased for several years before and to the time of her death and also with her manner and character of handwriting and subscription having frequently seen her write and also write and subscribe her name and having now carefully viewed and studied the papers writing hereto annexed purporting to be and contain the last will and testament and two Codicils of the said deceased the said will bearing date the thirteenth day of October 1788 and thus subscribed "A Cateley" the said first Codicil containing the words following to wit "I appoint the said Major General Lascelles my sole executor to this my last will and testament" and thus subscribed "A Cateley" the said second Codicil bearing date the fourteenth day of October 1788 and thus subscribed "A Cateley" to this document saith that he verily and in his conscience believes the whole sense or contents of the said will and codicils and the subscriptions thereto to be all of the proper handwriting of the said Ann Cateley. Richard Atkinson 22 Oct 1789. The said Richard Atkinson was duly sworn to the truth of this affidavit before me
J Nicholl, James Bush n s

The Will was proved at London with two codicils on the twenty-third day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine before the worshipful John Nicholl Doctor of Laws Surrogate of the Right Honourable Sir William Wynne Knight Doctor of Laws master keeper or commissary of this prerogative court of Canterbury lawfully constituted by the oath of Francis Lascelles Esq. the sole Executor named in the said will to whom administration was granted of all and singular the goods chattels and credits of the deceased having been first sworn duly to administer.

  1. 'The Dictionary of National Biography', 1929 edition
  2. 'Ladies of Contrast' from 'Ladies first; the story of woman's conquest of the British stage' by Walter James MacQueen-Pope, [Allen 1952], pp 214-222
  3. 'The Gentleman's Magazine' 1789, Volume 2 page 962 & pages 1049-50
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Author : Chris Newall
File created : 8th July 2000
Last modified : 26th July 2003