Robert Lucas DE PEARSALL (the Younger)

3 Oct 1820 – 14 Dec 1865

Biographical Note by John Barnard

(Revised 10 Nov 2021 - further updates still required)

Robert Lucas de Pearsall (“the Younger”) was the son of the composer Robert Lucas Pearsall (“the Elder”) (1795-1856). He was brought up largely in Germany and Austria, and spent six years as a Cavalry Officer in the Imperial Austrian Army. After retiring from military service, he lived for several years in France with his mother (who was separated from her husband). Returning to London after his father's death, he was married twice, and fathered a daughter, Rosey, before being drowned in mysterious circumstances in a London canal at the early age of 45.

Family tree

In the “family mythology” of his daughter's descendants, he was the “black sheep” of the family, who gambled his father's fortune away; he was also said to have been injured in a duel. As so often in family histories, there seem to be elements of corrupted and heavily-embroidered truth in these myths, though the facts are generally rather more prosaic. Robert certainly appears to have had some significant moral failings (probably encouraged by over-indulgence on the part of his mother), though a degree of mystery still surrounds the details of his marriages, the birth of his daughter, and the exact circumstances of his death.

On the basis of the available original documents, Robert seems fairly consistently to have used the spurious “de” prefix in his surname, though there are two notable exceptions, mentioned below. As discussed in the late Edgar Hunt's biography of his father1, the “de” seems to have been introduced by his father, during his travels on the continent, and may possibly have been intended to be equivalent to the German “von”, and indicative of his social position as an English Gentleman.

Childhood and Education 1820-1839

Robert was born at the family home, Willsbridge House, near Bristol, on 3rd October 1820. His mother was Mary Henriette Eliza (“Harriet”), daughter of the well-known portrait painter William Armfield Hobday (1771-1831). Less than four weeks earlier, on 8th September, Robert's elder brother John Still Pearsall had died aged 23 months. This tragedy may provide a rationalization for the later indulgence shown to Robert by his mother, which itself appears to have caused the rift in his parents' marriage. Robert had two younger sisters, Elizabeth (1822-1912), who became the Countess of Harrington in 1866, and Philippa (1824-1917). In 1825 the entire family set off to travel on the continent, eventually settling at Karlsruhe2. Robert's mother appears to have remained there with the children, while his father continued to visit a variety of places mainly in German-speaking lands, pursuing his musical and antiquarian interests.

In 1834, when Robert was not quite 14, his father took him to Vienna3, to be educated at the prestigious military “Engineer Academy” where he was enrolled on 30th September. Robert himself wrote a manuscript description4 of the education offered at the academy, along with some brief notes on its history. This seems to have been intended as an explanatory note to accompany the “national certificate of application and good conduct”, dated 31st March 1839, which he received on graduation from the academy.5 The certificate classifies his achievements in languages, geometry, civil architecture and drawing, in most cases showing “First Class”, though Robert's manuscript takes pains to explain the subtleties of the classification system, and to account for the mere “second class” awarded to him in German. The relevant sentence (in which Robert refers to himself in the third person) is so long, and with such convoluted Teutonic syntax, that it almost demonstrates of itself that his mastery of German eclipsed even his knowledge of his mother tongue:

Having been brought up from childhood to man's estate in Germany he knows the language of that country as well as his mother tongue; although the fact of his having been set down as a second class in the German language in his examination is to be explained by the following fact: that examination took place when he was in the 2nd class of the Academy, and having won his 2nd class mark there, it was continued against his name as he went onwards which is no unusual thing in Schools much addicted to routine, but when, at length, he was examined for the 6th class and examined particularly as to the style of writing on military business (which embraces the art of expressing one's self neatly and unequivocally in communicating with superior officers, all matters in which he may be personally engaged in the field of Battle, and which may be necessary for them to know) it was discovered that he could do more than hold a mere conversation in German, he was enregistered as having taken a first class with distinction; and having had that appended to his name it was looked on as superfluous to alter the former inscription, that being eclipsed by the latter.

The certificate also gives his height as 5 feet 2 inches, and his religion as “High Church of England”; his father is described as an “English Gentleman by descent”.

Robert's manuscript also gives information on his career after graduating from the academy, and mentions his competence in riding and swordsmanship. Towards the end it digresses into a discussion of the importance of bayonet fencing, in which Robert appears to have had a special, if perhaps (from the point of view of military usefulness) rather dated expertise.

Military Career 1839-1846

In October 1839 Robert was commissioned as Oberleutnant in the Imperial and Royal Austrian 4th Regiment of the Emperor's Own Lancers (Ulanen), and his manuscript gives some information on his service with it.. The “Emperor's Own Lancers” was one of a number of light cavalry regiments, known as “Uhlans”, in the Austro-Hungarian army, whose soldiers were largely recruited from the Polish-speaking parts of the empire and who were armed with ash-shafted lances about 3m long.6 Robert's manuscript says that, although his graduation from the Engineer Academy would have entitled him to a commission in any Austrian infantry regiment, he instead purchased a commission in the (presumably more prestigious) cavalry. Strictly speaking, the purchase of commissions in the Austrian Army was abolished in 1803, but it remained legal for officers to “exchange” ranks,7 a procedure which Robert notes was called “convention”. Robert's manuscript mentions that his service gave him a working knowledge of several central European languages, including Polish (the language of the soldiers under his command), and of Hungarian, Croatian and Turkish (spoken in the areas where he served).

Regimental records8 show that from 1837 to 1845 Robert's regiment was based at Grosswardein (Nagyvárad in Hungarian), which is now known as Oradea in northwestern Romania. When Robert took up his commission, however, it was quartered about 50km further north, at Debreczin in modern Hungary, and Robert was accompanied there by his father. Hunt9 says that Robert was well-received among his fellow officers, who included Hungarians, Poles, Spaniards and Frenchmen, but also quotes from a letter sent to Robert's father by an Austrian friend, which warned that some of these officers came from rich families and abandoned themselves to dissipation, and could be dangerous for comrades with smaller fortunes who might be tempted to partake in the same delights.

Evidently Robert succumbed to these temptations, and had to be bailed out of debt by his father, who in 1843 wrote to his friend, Rev. Canon H. T. Ellacombe10:

Your conjecture that my plan of German education has been a failure is, to a certain extent, true. The plan was good, but it has been influenced and frustrated by circumstances which I could neither foresee nor control. The evil which has happened is not the result of education so much as the sort of maternal fondness which can see no blemish in a child, yields to all his wishes and stands between him and paternal correction. Had I educated my son in England I cannot doubt that the same results would have happened, and in a triple degree, as far as expense is concerned. There is, however, one result arising out of the misfortune that is not to be deplored, namely that it gives me good reason for removing from Carlsruhe to a less expensive place and so avoiding all the rivalry and temptation towards luxury which is sure to abound in the neighbourhood of every court, great or small”.

This appears to have precipitated the separation of Robert's parents, as in 1842 his father purchased the run-down Castle of Wartensee, near the Bodensee (Lake of Constance) in Switzerland, while his mother moved to Strasbourg, where she was converted to the Roman Catholic faith. These moves did not, however, remove Robert from the path of temptation, and in 1844, he had again got his financial affairs into such difficulty that he contemplated suicide, drawing back only as a result of a vision of his mother, who, though hundreds of miles away, had spent the entirety of the same night praying for him. The story is related in a letter to Ellacombe from Robert's father (written eleven years later), which is quoted by Hunt.11

On the night of 14th November she was thinking much of her son, and oppressed by a strong and unconquerable feeling that he was threatened by some fatal danger, and this fear grew so very strong that she got out of bed and prayed for him with a crucifix in her hand before one of those altars which are often found in the bedrooms of continental houses. There she prayed and prayed with all the zeal that apprehension and maternal love could inspire, until she, having exhausted herself, fell down asleep where she knelt and there remained till she was roused by a noise like someone making one loud clap close to her ear. On waking she saw that all was as she had left it, except that the dial marked the hour of four o'clock in the morning, which proved that she had been there many hours asleep. Then she resumed her prayer and arose comforted by a strange gush of pleasure through her mind.

Some years later, young Pearsall, not knowing anything of this, told his sister Philippa that his mother had once saved his life. He said that he was so miserable under his misfortunes in Hungary that he had resolved to shoot himself, and that, to do it, he had placed a small pistol by his bedside. Then he read in bed, thinking in that way to drive away gloomy ideas; at last he got drowsy, and in that state, half awake and half asleep, he took up the pistol and discharged it at his head, but just as he pressed the trigger, his mother came in her nightdress and struck up his arm. The explosion of the pistol brought his servant into the room, who wakened him up, and just then the trumpets of the regiment in the street sounded the reveille, which always at that time of year took place at four o'clock in the morning. Although I am slow at crediting such relations, because among a thousand such there are nine hundred and ninety-nine quite imaginary – yet I believe this.”

Living with his Parents 1846-1856

Robert spent about six years in the Austrian service, retiring from it in 1845, when he would have been 25. He joined his mother in Strasbourg, from where they later moved to Rossheim in Alsace12. He refused to take up any occupation on the basis that he was needed to protect his mother, and it was presumably during this period that he also converted to Roman Catholicism. Religion does not seem to have been a factor in the separation of the family. Robert's sister Philippa had also converted to Catholicism, but was living with their father at Wartensee, and the elder Robert was himself received into the Roman church a few days before his death.

Robert's other sister, Elizabeth, had eloped, aged only 16, with Charles Stanhope, a nephew of the Earl of Harrington (though it was not until 1866 that he rather unexpectedly succeeded to the title himself), and they had been married at the British Embassy in Paris on 15th January 1839. . This does not seem to have caused a permanent rift in the family either, as the elder Robert considered giving Wartensee to his son-in-law13, presumably because he was worried that his own son's financial irresponsibility might lead to its loss. However, the plan was never put into effect.

Robert and his mother were reunited with his father and Philippa at Wartensee at the end of 1854.14 This seems to have been occasioned by the elder Robert's failing health, but it may also have given the latter the opportunity to try to persuade his son to make something of his life and renew his military career. In 1855 Robert obtained a reference from the former Oberst (Colonel) of his Regiment, Karl Freiherr Pergler von Perglas (1793-1868), who had been promoted to Generalmajor in 1843, and to Feldmarshall-Leutnant in 1848.15 In a personal letter16 to Robert, Perglas wrote

It has given me great pleasure to perceive from your letter, that your old, and assuredly your well-wishing Colonel has not entirely escaped from your memory; and I enclose you a certificate to attest that you served under me and that you behaved bravely. More I can not do, the latter years of your service being unknown to me. Good luck to your renewed military career, and heartily shall it gladden me to learn that your wishes have been fulfilled. ... In due time let me have news of the result which will rejoice your old friend.

The formal certificate17 records

That Mr R. L. Pearsall de Willsbridge served in the Imperial and Royal Austrian 4th Regiment of the Emperor's Own Lancers, for many years during which I, the undersigned, was Colonel Commandant of the same; that he conducted himself, during that time, to my full satisfaction, and that, in the rank of Commander of a troop, he proved himself by his application and his studies to have made good progress in all the accomplishments of an efficient Cavalry Officer. I certify herewith, at the request of Mr R. L. Pearsall de Willsbridge with my signature and seal.

One point of interest here is that Robert's surname is shown without the “de” prefix, but with the suffix “de Willsbridge”, the old Pearsall family home near Bristol, which Robert had not visited since the age of 5, and which his father had sold in 1842.

Though Robert obviously valued the documents from Perglas highly enough to retain them until his own death in 1865, I have seen no evidence that he did ever actually try to obtain a new military commission, in either a British or a foreign regiment.

Robert's father died at Wartensee in 1856, with his wife, Robert and Philippa all with him, and Robert wrote to his father's friend Ellacombe a few weeks later, with a touching description of his last moments.18 Both Robert and Philippa then returned to London, while their mother remained in Switzerland.

London and First Marriage 1857-1862

Both Robert and Philippa were married in 1857, within a month of each other, and both marriages took place at the Roman Catholic chapel (then known as the Royal Bavarian Chapel, though it had originally been attached to the Portuguese Embassy) which still stands in Warwick Street, just east of Regent Street in London.

Philippa was married first, on 17th September 1857, to a lawyer named John Hughes19. He was 52 against her 33, and his grown-up son by a previous marriage, Talbot, had been a visitor to Wartensee early the previous year. This provided the connection, and there is a small collection of letters20 held at the Society of Genealogists' Library in London which show that Hughes assisted Philippa with her genealogical researches. Amongst these is an undated one from Philippa (though as it refers to Hughes as her friend, rather than as her husband, it was probably written in the summer of 1857) requesting permission from an antiquarian to copy a manuscript relating to the Pearsall pedigree, and suggesting in return that

residing at my brother's seat, Wartensee Castle, Lake of Constance, I have every facility for access to the magnificent MSS., many of them invaluable and unique in the neighbouring library of the old Abbey of St Gall, and that I should have great pleasure in rendering to you any aid in reference to them which you might suggest.”

However, Hunt relates21 that when Philippa returned to Wartensee, with her husband, she found that her brother had bankrupted himself in a lavish redecoration of the castle, and everything was sold on 26 May 1858. It also seems possible that their father, who had directed much of the restoration of the Castle during his final years, had overspent his fortune, leaving nothing left for his heirs to live off. The 1857 financial crash (which started in the USA, but later spread to the UK) may also have contributed to the family's losses [See Shakinovsky, Lynn. "The 1857 Financial Crisis and the Suspension of the 1844 Bank Act". (March 2015) BRANCH: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History. Ed. Dino Franco Felluga].

Robert was married on 17th October 1857, and his bride's name is given on the certificate22 as Rose Frances Emeline Somerset, age 21 years, of 19 Princes Street, Hanover Square, the daughter of Frederick Fitzroy Somerset, Gentleman. I have so far been able to discover very little about Rose Somerset and her family, and she does not feature in the oral mythology of Robert's descendants, though a note in Lionel James's handwriting23 does list the marriage – this is probably simply the result of his having found it in the Register of Marriages during his own genealogical researches (he was the husband of Robert's grand-daughter Ethel de Pearsall Clabburn).

The names suggests a possible connection to the Dukes of Beaufort, whose family name is Somerset, and who have frequently used Fitzroy as a given name. I can find no reference to Rose Frances Emeline Somerset at all, but there are some references to Frederick John Fitzroy Somerset, who was the third son of Lord Raglan (Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, 1788-1855), famous as the commander of British forces in the Crimean War , and himself the youngest son of the 5th Duke of Beaufort. Frederick John Fitzroy Somerset is not mentioned in published pedigrees of the Somerset family, and the summary of a document collection at Gwent Record Office24 says that he died in infancy in 1824; another internet source25 gives (unattributed) dates for him of 8th March 1821 to 26th November 1824. Had he survived (which would imply that, for some reason, he was written out of the Somerset family history), he would have been the right age to have fathered Rose Frances Emeline in his late teens, around 1840, putting her in her late teens by the time of her marriage in 1857. Further research is clearly required here, but it seems improbable that so large a skeleton in Lord Raglan's family would have gone undetected by his many biographers.

Both the 184126 and 186127 census records28 show that 19 Princes Street, the address given by Rose Somerset on her marriage certificate, was occupied by a Scottish tailor named John Thomson (in 1861 with a nephew, a niece, two servants and a lodger), and the neighbouring houses seem to have been occupied by tradesmen of various sorts; this suggests that Rose might have been a servant in Thomson's house.

The 1861 census shows Robert and Rose living at 92 Exeter Street, Chelsea29, and Rose's birthplace is given as Agra, India, which suggests that her father may have been in the army there (and provides another possible direction for further research). Her age is given as 19, which is not consistent with the 21 shown on her marriage certificate of four years earlier, and suggests that she was probably under age at the time of the marriage. An interesting point from this entry is that in the column showing Robert's “rank or profession” the word “Gentleman” has been crossed out, and replaced by “fencing master”. Robert had clearly fallen on hard times and was presumably making use of the expertise he had acquired in the Austrian service. The entry also records that, in a further effort to make ends meet, Robert and Rose had taken in a lodger, named John Aldcroft.

On 2nd February1862, Robert's mother Harriet wrote him an extraordinary letter30 in what seems to have been an attempt to get him to “sort his life out”. She describes him as having “fallen, alas, into ruin”, and advises him to approach the English League of the Knights of Malta (a charity in which his father had taken an interest31). She notes that they are “immensely scrupulous about honour, respectability and noble conduct”, and advises him:

Should you have occasion to speak of yourself, dwell on your entirely foreign education; it will be an excuse for your having become a prey to deception and adventurers which brought on your ruin. I speak to you as a mother – and I advise you not to mention Hughes if you can avoid it.

The reference to Hughes (clearly Philippa's husband) is rather ambiguous. A note by Robert's grand-daughter Ethel James32, in 1950, claims that

he was the villain of the piece – being a great gambler and led his young [brother-in-law] astray and lost his fortune for him”.

This seems to have been a bit of romantic embroidery of the story by Ethel – there is no other evidence that Hughes was in any way responsible for Robert's ruin, and his financial problems in the Austrian Army pre-dated Hughes's appearance on the scene by at least 15 years. It seems more likely that Hughes was only too well aware of Robert's own failings, and thus unlikely to be a helpful character witness for him.

Harriet also enclosed a letter33 from her friend, Charlotte, Princess of Hohenlohe-Bartenstein and Countess of Salm-Reifferscheidt-Krautheim, which provides a more useful character reference for Robert:

What wonderful plans your son, Mr de Pearsall, made then as new owner of Wartensee in order to take as much care as possible of the area, and how short a time was this joy granted to his noble heart; nevertheless I am convinced that the many needy who always found ready help from him, will always long to have the beloved master and benefactor back again.

In addition Harriet reminded her son to remember his Catholic faith:

which you must never forget, mind that, my dearest son or God will quite abandon you, mind it oh mind it.

Second Marriage, 1864

It seems unlikely that these letters had much practical effect, and the next piece of evidence regarding Robert is his second marriage34, on 23rd March 1864, to Anna Maria Hamilton Ffinney. She was the daughter of Capt. Edward Hamilton Ffinney, of the 80th Regiment of Foot, and, like Rose Somerset, about 15 years younger than Robert. This marriage raises quite a lot of questions. In the first place, what happened to his first wife? There is no record of her death, and on the new marriage certificate Robert is described as a bachelor (and a Gentleman). It is also the only occasion I have encountered where he gives his own surname without the “de” prefix. Secondly, the same address, 7 Princes Road (exactly which Princes Road is not clear) is given for both bride and groom, suggesting that they may have been living together before the marriage was solemnized. The ceremony took place at St James's, Norland Square, in Kensington, “according to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Established Church”, suggesting that, despite his mother's injunctions, Robert's Catholicism had lapsed somewhat. There is a Prince's Place, a Prince's Yard and a Princedale Road in the immediate vicinity of the church, though these do not seem to correspond to the address given.

Finally there is the question of Robert's daughter, Rosey. I have been unable to trace any record for her birth, and her age is given inconsistently on different census returns, corresponding to birth dates between April 1858 and April 1860. She was married35 on 26th November 1877, giving her age as 18, which puts her birth in 1859, though I suspect she was younger than that, and family tradition is that she was only 17 when her daughter Ethel was born in April 1879, which puts her own birth in 1861 or 1862; this is consistent with the age (60) recorded on her death certificate36 in 1922. At all events she must have been born before the marriage of Anna Maria and Robert in 1864, and family tradition is clear that Rosey's mother was Anna Maria. Hunt37 claims that Robert's sister Philippa specifically told Hubert Hunt (Edgar Hunt's father, who met and corresponded with Philippa) that Robert had no children, and he suggests that Philippa may have simply been unaware of Rosey's existence. This was certainly not the case, as a manuscript letter38 exists which was written by Philippa to Rosey, in December 1877, though unfortunately it only suggests that Rosey visit Philippa, and gives no substantive information.

The most likely supposition is that at some point, probably around 1861, Robert began an adulterous relationship with Anna Maria and fathered Rosey out of wedlock. His marriage to Rose Somerset presumably ended some time after the 1861 census, after which he began to live with Anna-Maria. For some reason (possibly Rose Somerset's death abroad) the way became clear for them to marry in 1864, though it is also possible that his second marriage was bigamous. Under these circumstances Philippa may not have wished to acknowledge Rosey's paternity publicly, and she may in any case have broken off relations with her after her (probably under-age) marriage in 1877; the letter Philippa wrote to her is dated just 11 days after the wedding, and was almost certainly written in ignorance of it.

There are two other possible hypotheses. The first is that Rose Somerset was actually Rosey's mother (the similarity of the names provides some support to this idea), though as there is no mention of Rose Somerset in the family tradition, and a great deal of information (and many original documents) relating to Anna Maria and her family, this seems unlikely. There is also a definitive statement that Anna Maria was Rosey's mother in a letter39 from Charles Graham Carttar to Rosey's daughter Ethel, in 1915, when he states

Captain Edward Hamilton-ffinney was your mother's grandfather”.

As discussed below, Carttar married Anna Maria immediately after Robert's death, and would certainly have known whether or not she was Rosey's mother. The second hypothesis is that Graham Carttar, and not Robert de Pearsall, was actually Rosey's father, though this would imply that he was involved with Anna-Maria before her marriage to Robert, as well as afterwards.

Death, 1865

On 12th August 1865, just 17 months after his marriage to Anna-Maria, Robert's mother died at Immenstaad, on the Bodensee in Germany40, aged 63. Three days before her death she wrote a note41 of “souvenirs I wish to leave if it is God's will I should not survive my present illness”, including a family seal and seal stamp for Robert –

a forgiveness complete for whatever paine he may have given me, with the expression of my love. I believe no mother ever loved a son with more intense love than I do Robert”.

It is unknown if the intensity of Harriet's love for her son was reciprocated in degree, but it seems possible that her death effectively sent him off the rails altogether. It also seems very likely that Anna Maria was by this stage involved in an affair with Charles Graham Carttar, who was an accountant of her own age. On 10th December, Robert was reported missing42, and on the 15th his body was found in the Hertford Union Canal (also known as Duckett's Cut) just south of Victoria Park in Hackney. An inquest was held on 18th December before the Middlesex coroner, John Humpheries, and the cause of death was recorded as “violent suffocation, accidentally drowned”. The death certificate43 gives the date of Robert's death as 14th December, and he was buried on 21st December in the Catholic cemetery in Bow.

The coroner's records for this period have not survived, but it is strange that the local newspapers for the area contain no reports of the inquest (when they do include reports of other inquests held before Mr Humpheries in the same week). An explanation may be provided by the involvement of the Carttar family. Charles Graham's father, Charles Joseph Carttar (1809-1880) was the Coroner for Kent44, and it may be that he and Humpheries connived to ensure that the press were excluded from the inquest. There was some potential for scandal, especially if Robert's death was not entirely accidental. This could have involved not only the Carttar family, but also those of Rose Somerset (possibly related to the Dukes of Beaufort) and of Robert's sister Elizabeth (whose husband, Charles Stanhope, was heir presumptive to his cousin, the 20-year old 6th Earl of Harrington, who had been taken ill the previous October and in fact died just two months later45).

On 30th December, just 16 days after her first husband's death, Anna Maria was married to Charles Graham Carttar at St Mary's church, Marylebone, the witnesses being Carttar's father and brother46. This very clearly shows that their relationship must have started well before Robert's death, though no attempt was made to conceal the marriage, and an announcement, noting that Anna Maria was the “widow of R. L. de Pearsall, esq., late of Willsbridge House, Gloucestershire” appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine a few weeks later47. In contrast, the announcement of Robert's death (alongside that of his mother's) did not appear until the following July.48

Whether or not the marriage of Anna Maria and Charles Graham Carttar was a success is perhaps arguable. In the 1871 census49, just over five years later, he is shown as living alone, and I have been unable to find a record for Anna Maria. She died, of breast cancer, in 1880, but her death was reported by her brother and she is described on the certificate50 as the widow of Charles Graham Carttar. This is not correct, as at some point Charles Graham went to America, and as late as 1915 he was corresponding 39, from San Antonio, Texas, with Rosey's daughter Ethel, thanking her for her care of Rosey, who was technically his step-daughter. He died there in 1917, and is buried with a different wife, Mary Rosie51.

In the 1871 census, Rosey is recorded as boarding with a teacher in Lancashire52. Whatever happened to her mother's marriage to Charles Graham Carttar, she clearly retained close links with the Carttar family, as one of Charles Graham's sisters wrote53 to congratulate her on the birth of her first child, Ethel, in 1879.

Unless some reports of the inquest turn up, the exact circumstances of Robert's death will remain a mystery. It seems unlikely that matters could have been so successfully covered up (even with the connivance of the coroner) if he was pushed, though the romantic notion that he might have fallen into the canal during a duel with Carttar does have some resonance with the family myths surrounding him. The official verdict, recorded on the death certificate, was that it was an accident, and this would have been legally correct unless there was clear evidence (such as a note, or a witness) of suicide. Nevertheless, the possibility that he took his own life, cuckolded by his wife and following the death of the mother who had so often indulged him, and no doubt bailed him out of his financial problems more than once, cannot be overlooked. The theory is supported by the story of his attempted suicide in 1844, which was only averted by a vision of his mother. Robert was the last in a male line of Pearsalls and Peshales stretching back to the Norman Conquest, and the last piece of evidence is the family motto itself:

Better deathe than shame.”

Copyright © John Barnard, 2009

References and Notes

1Hunt, E. Robert Lucas Pearsall: the Compleat Gentleman and his Music. Published by the author, 1977. Page 4.

2Hunt, op.cit., pp. 17-18

3Hunt, op.cit., page 19

4Pearsall, R. L. de (Younger) Notes on the Engineering Academy, Vienna. Original manuscript circa 1855

5National Certificate of Application in respect of Robert Lucas de Pearsall. Engineer Academy, Vienna, 31 Mar 1839




9Hunt, op. cit., page 26

10Quoted in Hunt, op. cit., page 28

11Hunt, op. cit., pp. 30-31

12Hunt, op. cit., page 31

13Hunt, op. cit., page 31

14Hunt, op. cit., page 41

15Schmidt-Brentano, A. Die k. k. bzw k. u. k. Generalität 1816–1918. Österreiches Staatsarchiv, 2007 []

16Pergler von Perglas, K. Letter to R. L. Pearsall, 15 Nov 1855. Original manuscript in German, and manuscript English translation by the recipient.

17Pergler von Perglas, K. Certificate attesting to service of R. L. Pearsall, 15 Nov 1855. Manuscript translation by the subject.

18Hunt, op. cit., pp. 45-46

19Register of Marriages ,St James Westminster, Jul-Sep 1857, vol 1a, pages 651 and 636

20“Peshall, Pershall, Pearsall”, Special Document Collection, Society of Genealogists' Library, London

21Hunt, op. cit., pp. 46-47

22Register of Marriages, St James Westminster, Oct-Dec 1857, vol 1a, page 593, No. 67

23Lionel James, Manuscript note on Monmouth School notepaper giving some dates relating to Robert Lucas de Pearsall and others, probably written in late 1920s

24Fitzroy Somerset Papers, 1807-1901. Gwent Record Office, GB 0218 D3135 []


26England Census, 1841, Entry for Princes Street, St Georges Hanover Square, London. RG:H0107, piece 733, book/folio 1/29, page 17

27England Census, 1861, Entry for 19 Princes Street, St Georges Hanover Square, London. RG 09, piece 40, folio 30, page 20

28Transcription of the 1851 census index records for computer search has not yet been completed

29England Census, 1861. Entry for 92 Exeter Street, Chelsea. RG 09, piece 36, folio 9, page 15

30Harriet Pearsall, Original manuscript letter to her son, 2 Feb 1862

31Hunt, op. cit., pages 21, 31 and 128

32Ethel de Pearsall James, Note dated 2 Mar1950, transcribed in typescript by Robert C. T. James, 6 Apr 1950

33Princess Charlotte of Hohenlohe-Bartenstein, Countess of Salm, Original manuscript letter to Harriet Pearsall (in German), 27 Aug 1861

34Anna Maria Hamilton-ffinney and Robert Lucas Pearsall. Register of Marriages, Kensington, Jan-Mar 1864, vol 1a, page 80, no. 82

35Rosey de Pearsall and Arthur Edward Clabburn. Register of Marriages, Rochford, Oct-Dec 1877 vol 4A, page 420, no. 162

36Register of Deaths, Brighton, Jan-Mar 1922, vol 2b, page 369, no. 158

37Hunt, op.cit., page 47

38Hughes, Philippa S. Original manuscript letter to Rosey de Pearsall, 6 Dec 1877

39Carttar, C.G. Manuscript letter to Ethel James 25 Nov 1915, and associated genealogical notes on the Pearsall, Hamilton-ffinney and Carttar families

40Death notice for Harriet Pearsall. Gentleman's Magazine, July 1866, p. 113

41Pearsall, M. H. E., Manuscript note of personal legacies, 9 Aug 1865

42Manuscript pedigree in unknown hand in “Peshall, Pershall, Pearsall”, Special Document Collection, Society of Genealogists' Library, London

43Robert Lucas de Pearsall. Register of Deaths, Poplar, Oct-Dec 1865, vol 1c, page 462, no. 49

44Death notice for Charles Joseph Carttar. Cutting from unidentified newspaper, Mar 1880

45Obituary, 6th Earl of Harrington. Gentleman's Magazine, April 1866, p. 583

46Anna Maria de Pearsall and Charles Graham Carttar. Register of Marriages, Marylebone, Oct-Dec 1865 vol 1a, page 1019, no. 435

47Marriage Notice, C. G. Carttar and Anna-Maria de Pearsall. Gentleman's Magazine, February 1866, p. 269

48Death Notices, Harriet Pearsall and Robert Lucas Pearsall. Gentleman's Magazine, July 1866, p. 113

49England Census 1871. Entry for 14 Clements Inn, Westminster. RG10-0367; image 86, folio 42; page 5

50Anna Maria Carttar. Register of Deaths, Lambeth, Apr-Jun 1880, Vol 1d, page 225, no. 116

51List of Burials in San Antonio City Cemetery No. 1, 1301 E. Commerce, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Section H Public Burial Grounds. [Found at in October 2008, but this link was broken by October 2009]

52England Census 1871. Entry for 184 Park Avenue, Levenshulme, Lancs

53Carttar, Maria Caroline. Original manuscript letter to Arthur Edward Clabburn, 14 Apr 1879