In this post about the family we will take a look at Jemima’s marriage; we should point out that all three girls had difficult marriages. Jemima married well, or so it would seem. She married Arthur Annesley Powell.
Arthur was born was born Arthur Annesley Roberts. His uncle, John Powell, died in 1783 without children, so he left his estate to his eldest nephew, Arthur, son of his sister Elizabeth Roberts, on the condition that Arthur change his name to Powell. The name change had to be ratified by Act of Parliament and this act confirmed that the fruit of Powell’s body would also be entitled to continue to inherit the estate from him.
The estate he inherited included stocks worth £75,000 and mortgages worth £82,000 and plenty of land as well. This put him in what today would be a billionaire category. Amongst the property was Kingsgate Castle on the Isle of Thanet, and only about 2 miles from St Peters where Jemima’s mother, Christiana Neate lived, so it is a reasonable guess that Jemima and Arthur met there, or nearby. The marriage must have seemed like a god-send to the embattled Neate family.
A crisis seems to have occurred after less than eighteen months after the couple’s marriage. On 1 March 1789 Jemima and Arthur entered an agreement separating their property and it seems likely this was also some sort of separation agreement. Jemima was receiving £500 a year from this cruel (and mean) man, but no doubt that was better than having to continue to live with him.
As a postscript to the Powell story, his character was confirmed by a very nasty episode. In March 1809, Powell and his drinking companion Lord Falkland quarrelled after two long nights out. When Falkland called Powell by his nickname “Pogey”, Powell struck him with his stick and challenged him to a duel. In the duel Powell killed Falkland. Although, by this time, duelling was a crime and Powell could easily have been convicted of murder, all those present lied about it and, although the story was well known, no further action was taken.
Lord Byron was a friend of Falkland’s and wrote in his poem English Bards and Scotch Reviewers:
If mad with loss existence ‘gins to tire,
And all your hope or wish is to expire,
Here’s Powell’s pistol ready for your life
And kinder still a Paget for your wife.
In his memoirs, Byron recalls visiting Falkland’s wife and her young child as Falkland was dying. Feeling sorry for her, as he left the room, he slipped a £50 note into a vase. She believed it was a token of his love for her and, as he later wrote to his mother, pursued him to his horror and never got over the disappointment that he did not return her love.
In her diary Fanny records that, following the duel, Jemima wrote to Powell. She does not say what was in the letter, nor whether there was a reply. Four years later, Powell died in a fall from his horse. Amongst the few papers belonging to Jemima Powell which have been preserved is a lawyer’s opinion dashing any hopes that she might be able to make a claim against the estate.
Indeed, perhaps having an inkling of his character, the executors of his uncle’s estate had made sure that he would not be able to do as he wished with the wealth. Although by his will he left everything he owned to his sister, on his death the wealth he had inherited from his uncle passed to his younger brother, John Powell Roberts who, in order to maintain his right to the estate changed his name to John Powell Powell. On his death the estate passed to his nephew Henry Perry Cotton. Part of the Powell estate was Quex House, also on the Isle of Thanet and this is now a museum; so the Powell estate has been put to good use, even if the Neates did not benefit from it.
Jemima Powell died in 1836, and was buried at Walcot, Bath. When she wrote her will in 1830 (Fanny was the main beneficiary) she was living at Dunkirk House in Devizes with a servant, Fanny Freeman, but was late of Edgar Buildings in Bath. In her will she left some silver plate to her nephew William Neate Chapman, to be given to him if or when he returned to England, but had to make a codicil as these items were stolen from her house; instead she left William a gentleman’s dressing case.
The Life and Times of Lord Byron
The Scots Magazine, volume 71, part 1