Harriet Arbuthnot

Harriet Arbuthnot

English memoirist
Date of Birth: 10.09.1793
Country: Great Britain

  1. Harriet Arbuthnot Biography
  2. Early Life
  3. Marriage to Charles Arbuthnot
  4. Friendship with the Duke of Wellington
  5. Literary Legacy and Death

Harriet Arbuthnot Biography

Early Life

Harriet Arbuthnot was born on September 10, 1793, in a family that resided on the outskirts of aristocratic society. Her father, Henry Fane, was the second son of the Earl of Westmorland and was known for his simplicity and love for country life. Despite being a member of Parliament and marrying a wealthy heiress, he had a large family of nine sons and five daughters, which greatly diminished their chances of inheriting their own fortunes. Harriet had a happy childhood, growing up in the family estate in Lincolnshire. However, when she was nine years old, her father passed away, and the family's financial situation became unstable. Although her mother inherited a substantial fortune a few years later, it was entirely devoted to supporting the children.

Harriet Arbuthnot

Marriage to Charles Arbuthnot

On January 31, 1814, Harriet married the reputable Charles Arbuthnot, a member of Parliament who was 26 years her senior and a widower with four children. This significant age difference initially caused Harriet's family to oppose the marriage. Financial issues also emerged as an obstacle, as Harriet's mother and older brother could not agree with her future husband regarding her dowry. Eventually, they reached an agreement, and the marriage, which opened doors to high society, took place. Over the next twenty years, Harriet formed numerous friendships with powerful and influential men, from Foreign Secretary Castlereagh to the aforementioned Duke of Wellington. Despite her husband's close friendship with the Duke, contemporary sources noted that Harriet and Charles Arbuthnot had a happy marriage. Marrying a politician sparked her own interest in politics, and she often played the role of hostess at Tory gatherings.

Harriet Arbuthnot

Friendship with the Duke of Wellington

The relationship between Harriet Arbuthnot and the Duke of Wellington continues to captivate the minds of modern historians. Most of them, however, believe that their friendship was platonic. Firstly, Charles Arbuthnot was a close friend of the Duke, and secondly, the unhappily married Wellington had numerous affairs with other women but trusted and respected Mrs. Arbuthnot, valuing her companionship. The Duke openly acknowledged his friendship with Harriet and even obtained permission to introduce her to the future Queen Victoria in 1828. If the future Queen's mother had deemed Harriet insufficiently respectable for such an introduction, it would never have taken place.

Literary Legacy and Death

Harriet Arbuthnot's keen and ironic wit is evident in her journals, which were published in 1950 under the title "The Journal of Mrs. Arbuthnot." These journals are considered one of the most reliable sources of information about Wellington's life, as they detail her observations, experiences, and reflections on the events surrounding him. Harriet passed away unexpectedly from cholera on August 2, 1834, at the Arbuthnot family home in Northamptonshire. After her death, Charles Arbuthnot left their family estate and moved into Wellington's house. For the next fifteen years, the two aging men mourned the loss of Harriet and their political influence until they each departed from this world, one after the other.