The “Infamous” Mrs. Drummond-Burrell

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland May 5, 1786, Sarah Clementina (or Clementina Sarah) was the daughter of James Drummond, Lord Perth, Baron Drummond of Stobhall and the Honorable Clementina Elphinstone.  The Drummond family was a noble family of Perthshire, who were loyal to the Jacobite cause.  After the Rising in 1715, the 4th Earl Drummond was attainted and the estates and title were lost (although still considered valid by the Jacobites in exile).  Clementina’s father obtained restoration of the estates in 1787, but the title was not restored; he was created 1st Lord Perth and Baron Stobhouse by George III in 1797 (he was considered the 11th earl de jure by the Jacobites in exile)*.    Clementina was the only surviving child and heir.   A number of compositions for dances were named for her, including “Clementina Sarah Drummond”, a strathspey by John Bowie published in 1789, and “Miss Sarah Drummond of Perth”, another strathspey.  On her father’s death in 1800, she inherited a large fortune and estates in Perthshire.

On October 19, 1807, at age 21, Clementina married the Honorable Peter Burrell, who was the son of Sir Peter Burrell, 2nd Baronet Burell of Knipp and subsequently Baron Gwyndir, and Lady Priscilla Bertie, 21st Baroness Willoughby de Eresby and the daughter of the 3rd Duke of Ancaster.  His family had no money to speak of.  On November 5, 1807, the couple took the name of Drummond-Burrell by royal license.   This was supposedly at her father’s insistence but, since he died in 1800, this may have been a requirement of her marriage settlement or her own request.  (I also saw an indication that this may have been at his father’s request.)  In any case, the couple became Mr. and Mrs. Drummond-Burrell.  Initially, at least, they lived at Drummond Castle.

Priscilla, Lady Willoughby de Eresby, by Sampson Towgood Roch (after a miniature painted by Saunders 1810) -Mother of Peter Robert Drummond-Burrell

Peter Drummond-Burrell was a great dandy, and a member of Brooks’s Club (a Whig stronghold), and had been working toward a political career.  He was elected Member of Parliament for Boston in Lincolnshire in April 1812, and usually voted with the opposition, although his attendance was not steady.  Clementina was an active hostess, noted for her parties.  By 1814, according to Captain Gronow, Clementina was one of the patronesses of Almack’s Assembly Rooms.  She had the reputation of being the highest stickler, very proud, and very grand.  In FRIDAY’S CHILD, Georgette Heyer described her as “the most coldly correct of Almack’s patronesses….”

There are some implications that this was not a particularly happy marriage.  Peter Drummond-Burrell was expensive, and his father was in debt; Clementina’s reputation for grandeur and shrewdness would not indicate a “soft touch” for cash.  However, after 1808, they appear to be fixed in London and very busy with their social and personal lives.  The couple had five children:  Clementina Elizabeth, born Sept. 2, 1809 in Piccadilly, Westminster; Elizabeth Susan, born Sept. 21, 1810 in Westminster, Charlotte Augusta born Nov. 3, 1815 in Berkley Square; Frederick, born Feb. 4, 1818 in Middlesex; and Alberic born Dec. 25, 1821.  Two of the children died before their parents.  Frederick died May 17, 1819, and Elizabeth died Oct. 10, 1853.  It is worth noting (considering the time) that I did not run across any speculation about the paternity of their children.   I also did not run across suggestions that Peter had a string of mistresses.  (A dandy’s lifestyle, combined with political aspirations, does justify a high level of expenditure!)  This would indicate a couple who, if not madly in love, at least cared about and respected each other.

Peter’s father died June 29, 1820, apparently significantly in debt, at which point Peter succeeded to his titles, becoming Lord Gwydyr.  His biography on THE HISTORY OF PARLIAMENT indicates he sold many family treasures and, rather than face another election, retired from politics to live in Paris by choice for a period of time.  How long he was in Paris, and whether Clementina went with him,  is unclear.  In any event, they were still a couple and in England fairly soon after this, as their fourth child Alberic was born December 25, 1821, and was christened at St. George’s, Hanover Square, December 30, 1821.   In 1828, his mother died, and he inherited her title, adding the 22nd Baron Willoughby de Eresby and Joint Hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain to his list of titles, invested in the Privy Council.  The couple was known as Lord and Lady Willoughby de Eresby from this point on.   Although the duties of Hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain and Privy Counselor required Lord Willoughby de Eresby’s presence at court, they continued to spend time at Drummond Castle where they were involved in continuing improvements, especially in the gardens.  In 1842, Queen Victoria supposedly planted copper beech trees at Drummond Castle during a visit.

Clementina died January 16, 1865 in Piccadilly, and was buried in St. Michael Churchyard, East Halton, Lincolnshire.  Peter died February 22, 1865, outliving her by only a month.

Clementina Drummond-Burrell was an influential society hostess, with the power to make or break a social career.  She had the reputation of being a high stickler, requiring a high standard of conduct in her protégés.  Certainly, I found no suggestion of scandal connected to her.   Her background as the only child of an earl, heiress to wealth and privilege, may have been a source of pride to her, and must surely have excited envy.  These things, however, do not necessarily require a cold, harsh personality.  Although in novels, she is portrayed as a rigid, implacable despot, the facts I found indicate an admirable person.  In REMINISCENCES OF CAPTAIN GRONOW, “Society in London in 1814,” he describes Lady Castlereagh and Mrs. Burrell “de tres grandes dames”1  (very great ladies).  I can think of worse things for which to be remembered.


  1. Gronow, Captain Rees Howell.  REMINISCENCES OF CAPTAIN GRONOW. P. 19

*Corrected 3/31/2020.



Gronow, Captain Rees Howell.  REMINISCENCES OF CAPTAIN GRONOW. 1862: Smith, Elder & Co. Cornhill.  Published in the U.S . by, McLean, VA.

Candice Hern Romance Novelist website. “ Leaders of Society and the Demimonde.”

A Web of English History website.  “Mr. and Mrs. Drummond-Burrell (1782-1865; 1786-1865). Posted by Dr. Marjorie Bloy.

The Peerage Online:  “Lady Sarah Clementina Drummond ”  and “James Drummond, 11th Earl of Perth.”  , “Peter Robert Drummond-Burrell, 21st Baron Willoughby de Eresby.”

Find A Grave website: “Lady Sarah Drummond Drummond-Burrell.”

The History of Parliament Online.  “DRUMMOND BURRELL, Hon. Peter Robert (1782-1865), of Drummond Castle, Perth.”

Traditional Tune Archive website.  “MISS SARAH DRUMMOND OF PERTH[1].”

Community Trees Project.  “Individual Report for Clementina Sarah Drummond”   and “Individual Report for Alberic Drummond-Willoughby, Lord Willoughby of Eresby.”

Regency Reader blog.  “Regency Villains: Mrs. Drummond Burrell.” Posted by Anne Glover, 2/24/2012.

Image from Wikimedia Commons:

The Elusive Lady Sefton

“Miss Maria Margaret Craven” by Thomas Beach 1776

          Maria Molyneux, Countess of Sefton, was one of the famed Lady Patronesses of Almack’s Assembly Rooms.   She is mentioned frequently in Regency novels, such as REGENCY BUCK by Georgette Heyer.    Lady Sefton had the reputation of being extremely good-natured; in fact, there is speculation that she was happy to leave to the question of blackballing of potential members, or revoking the vouchers of erring members, to the other patronesses.  (Harriet Cavendish supposedly disagreed with this assessment, but seemed to be in the minority.)  However, outside of her position as Almack’s patroness and Lord Sefton’s wife, very little is known about her personally.

          Born Maria Margaret Craven, she was the daughter of William Craven, 6th Baron Graven and Hampsted Marshall and Lady Elizabeth Berkley on April 26, 1769.  Her mother was the daughter of the 4th Earl of Berkley.    Lady Elizabeth was an author and playwright known for her travelogues, and a socialite with a reputation for multiple affairs.  Baron Craven was also reputed to have had numerous affairs.  Maria’s father separated from her mother in 1780; there after, Lady Elizabeth lived in France.   The Baron passed away Sept. 27, 1791 and Lady Elizabeth remarried Oct. 13, 1791 to the Markgraf von Brandenburg-Ansbach, with whom she had supposedly had a relationship for several years.    There is no indication of Maria having a relationship or even contact with her mother after her parents separated.

           On Jan. 1, 1792, Maria married William Philip Molyneux, Viscount Sefton, the son of Charles William Molyneux, 1st Earl of Sefton, and Isabella Stanhope (daughter of the 2nd Earl of Harrington).   Available information indicates that William’s mother Isabella is the Lady Molyneux who was one of the fourteen original founders of the Almack’s Assembly Rooms about 1765 with Mrs. Fitzroy, Lady Pembroke, Miss Pelham, Miss Lloyd and Mrs. Meynell (all mentioned by Horace Walpole in 1770 when he wrote about “The Female Coterie” – Maria Craven was only about a year old at that time).   It is also probable that Isabella was the Lady Sefton who sponsored Maria Fitzherbert into society (Mrs. Fitzherbert may have had a connection with Charles and Isabella’s family).   William succeeded his father in 1795 becoming the 2nd Earl of Sefton.    

          Known as  “Lord Dashalong”,  Lord Sefton, a friend of the Prince Regent, was passionate about racing, hunting, coursing and steeple chasing,  was a founder of the Four-Horse (also referred to as the Four-in-Hand Club).  He was Master of the Quorn Hunt from 1800-1805.  He was a member of White’s Club. Lord Sefton was known as a liberal and a reformer, and was a Member of Parliament, in the House of Commons (his title was Irish and did not automatically give him a seat in the House of Lords until 1831 when he was created Baron Sefton of Croxteth in the Peerage of the United Kingdom by William IV).   

          With his political career, as well as his club and sporting interests, Lord Sefton was obviously very active in society and was known for a magnificent mode of living and hospitality, which included setting an excellent table.   He and Maria had at least five children, possibly more.  Maria was a patroness of Almack’s by 1812, at which point she was one of the older (if not the oldest) of the group.  With the reputations of her parents and the scandal of their separation and her mother’s remarriage, it seems probable that Maria had high standards of behavior, if only to preserve her own reputation and standing.  Obviously, Maria would have been  very busy managing their homes and acting  hostess in Arlington Street in London, Stokes Farm in Berkshire and Croxteth Hall near Liverpool, in addition to her social life and her responsibilities as a Patroness of Almack’s.  However, I have yet to find any indication of letters or diaries or other information detailing her daily activities, personal feelings or friendships.  Clearly, she was also very discreet.

          Lord Sefton had a falling out with the Prince Regent, when he protested the Prince of Wales effort to cause the exclusion of the Princes of Wales from the White’s Club ball in 1814, which was ultimately cancelled.  Although this greatly reduced his involvement with court activities (and possibly, by extension, Lady Sefton’s presence at court as well, to some degree), his political and sporting activities continued.  There is no indication of any reduction of Lady Sefton’s activities in Society in general, although it appears that the responsibilities of the Lady Patronesses declined around 1824.  He was restored to favor at court by William IV, who was reported to be an admirer of Lady Sefton.

          Lord Sefton died Nov. 20, 1838.  He was succeeded by his son with Maria, Charles William Molyneux.    Maria survived him by almost twenty-three years, dying at the age of 81 Jan. 1, 1851.  As of this writing, I have found no information about her life during the period from the death of Lord Sefton until her own death.    It’s strange and rather sad to think that so little personal information survives about a woman of so much influence in her time.  Hopefully, more information will surface.


Hibbert, Christopher.  GEORGE IV The Rebel Who Would Be King.  2007: Palgrave MacMillan, New York.

Murray, Venetia.  AN ELEGANT MADNESS High Society in Regency England.  1999: Penguin Group, New York.


CROXTETH HALL Liverpool online.

Dandysme Blog.  THE EARL OF SEFTON. Posted 2/7/2012 by von Melanie Grundmann.  An obituary taken from THE GENTLEMAN’S MAGAXINE, Dec. 1838, Vol. X.

HISTORICAL AND REGENCY ROMANCE UK blog.  Regency Connections. By Nicola Cornick.Posted 9/7/2009.

THE HISTORY OF PARLIAMENT ONLINE.  Molyneux, William Philip, 2nd Earl of Sefton [I], of Croxteth Hall, nr. Liverpool, Lancs.  Published in the History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986.

THE JANE AUSTEN CENTRE website.  The Patronesses of Almack’s: The Arbiters of London Respectibility, by Laura Boyle.  Published 7/17/2011.

THE PEERAGE ONLINE. Person Page 2080.  [Information about the Hon. Maria Margaret Craven and William Philip Molyneux, 2nd Earl of Sefton]

THE PEERAGE ONLINE.  Person Page 10875. [William Craven, 6th Baron Crafen of Hampsted Marshall and Lady Elizabeth Berkley]

A WEB OF ENGLISH HISTORY.  Sir William Philip Molyneux, 2nd Earl of Sefton (1772-1838).  Dr. Marjory Bloy.  (no date)

Wikipedia.   William Molyneux, 2nd Earl of Sefton.,_2nd_Earl_of_Sefton

Wikipedia.  Almack’s.’s

  (If you would like to read about another Patroness, please check out an earlier post on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog about Princess Lieven! )



     In Jane’s surviving letters, there are tantalizing hints of political awareness. It must be remembered that the surviving letters are a fraction of those actually written-Cassandra destroyed many more. It is a mistake to assume, based on the surviving letters, that Jane did not more fully express herself on political subjects and matters. In my opinion, it is also a mistake to assume a completely one-sided view on her part.
Let’s take a look for some hints at political views in Jane Austen’s surviving letters ( JANE AUSTEN’S LETTERS, ed. Deirdre LeFaye):

Letter 29 (p. 69) Reference to a threatened act of Parliament as not an issue of concern: per Ms. LeFaye, this referred possibly to measures in regard to alleviating the distress of the winter of 1800-1801 (one such measure involved fixing the price of wheat, which was vigorously opposed.)
Letter 61 (p. 154) Reference to politics (electioneering, canvassing)-Jane reported that, although offered the opportunity to run unopposed, Mr. Thistlewaite declined to run due to previous electioneering costs.
Letter 72 (p. 186) Reference to Weald of Kent-Canal Bill-Jane congratulates Edward because she read that the bill was delayed. “There is always something to be hoped from Delay – .”
Letter 79 (p. 202) Jane asked Cassandra if she could find out if “Northamptonshire is a Country of Hedgerows….” – this is a reference to enclosure (common lands being acquired and enclosed, usually for sheep, which affected not only the livelihood of others no longer able to access this land for open field farming or shared grazing, but also affected tithing (land in lieu of yearly tithes). [Enclosure was bad if for superficial reasons, such as improving a view; good if it will increase profit or efficiency, per Celia Eston’s article in PERSUASIONS.]
Letter 96 (p. 252) Reference to Napoleonic War –Jane’s letter referred to speeches in parliament: 11/4/1814: Marquis Wellesley, in the words of Mr. Pitt, indicated that England saved herself and others; 11/8/1814: The House of Lords thanks to Marquis Wellesley for skill and ability in action subsequent to battle of Vittoria (this reflected the Tory desire to win the war); see also remarks about Lady B (Brooks or Bridges?).
Letter 106 (p. 273-274) Reference to the War of 1812 – Jane discussed Henry’s opinion that England would not defeat America, but that England was a nation improving in religion, which Americans don’t possess (Jane’s view). (This reflects Tory conservative religious views.)

     In my opinion, these letters indicate that Jane Austen was in fact politically aware, and had definite opinions on the political issues of the day. I believe that this reflects a strong probability that women in general shared these traits, even though women could not vote and were discouraged from participating in political debate or discussion at any level.
     A frequent criticism leveled at Jane Austen’s novels is her failure to mention current events or political issues. In JANE AUSTEN Women, Politics, and the Novel, Claudia Johnson said on page 10: “Considered from within the compelling rhetorical structures conservative novelists build, to suggest, as Austen among many others, frequently does, that fathers, sons, and brothers themselves may be selfish, bullying and unscrupulous, and that the ‘bonds of domestic attachment’ are not always sweet, is to attack the institutions which make morality possible and so to contribute to the dissolution of the government.” She also says, “If, as we have seen, women novelists [Jane Austen included here] were able to appropriate a reactionary type in order to advance modest but distinctly reformist positions about female manners, they developed other narrative strategies to examine Burkean premises about marriage and patriarchy while eluding the accusation that they favored a radical reconstitution of society.” To summarize, these novelists made their commentary subtle, to avoid being accused of attacking societal norms or of being desirous of radical change, thus making their works acceptable while still getting their opinions out there.
     There are many political clues in Jane Austen’s novels. Looking specifically at PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, and PERSUASION, I will address a few of them.
     PRIDE AND PREJUDICE was supposedly the most free spirited of Jane Austen’s novels, but was actually the most conservative, i.e. truer to older values and social structure (Johnson). Mr. Darcy is identifiably a Whig, as a wealthy landowner of high standing, who spent significant time in London, etc. (away from Pemberly), rich, definitely “high society” (he had danced at the Court of St. James, though seldom). Early in the novel, Darcy is seen as the handsome, wealthy, powerful hero (true to Cinderella story) but he had flaws and had to change to become worthy of winning Elizabeth. (Jane Austen showed a certain reluctant reverence for society, wealth and position, with Tory-esque values for individual merit and reward also). George Wickham was a classic Whig villain: although he was the son of Darcy’s father’s steward, he was treated as a son of the house, sent to Cambridge, and had expectations, which he squandered. Wickham expected advantages to be handed to him. After frittering away his advantages, he became a predator.
     Mr. Bingley, on the other hand, is recognizably a Tory, whose father made a fortune in trade; his success allowed his children to move up in society and become landowners. Mr. Bingley’s sisters especially aspired to Society roles (Whig “wanna-be’s”), as shown by Caroline’s relentless determination to catch Darcy. Other sympathetic Tory figures were the Gardiners: Mr. Gardiner was successful in the City, yet the couple’s manners and deportment made them acceptable in society.
     The Bennets themselves reflect the political divide. Mr. Bennet was a landowner and gentleman (inherited entailed property) who had no occupation. He married beneath him socially (she had a pretty face, was not educated, and brought little to the marriage). He was occupied with his own interests and place. Mr. Bennet, Elizabeth and Jane had the intelligence and ability to be able to fit into higher strata of society, while Mrs. Bennet and the younger girls did not. Elizabeth, as a gentleman’s daughter of charm, wit and intelligence, was found worthy of Mr. Darcy, despite the disparity of fortune and status. (This is a suggestion that Jane Austen may have felt that reform of social order was needed to allow for individual merit, but the hierarchical structure still basically sound. (CAMBRIDGE COMPANION P. 156.)
     In PERSUASION, Jane Austen’s last novel, her opinions had clearly matured. Sir Walter Elliot, Elizabeth Elliot, Lady Russell, the Dalrymples, Mary Musgrove are all classic Whig characters, convinced that  title, inherited wealth and property conferred status, regardless of personal merit. They did not perceive or readily value individual efforts to improve one’s circumstances. Of these, Lady Russell was the only one who really made an effort to value Capt. Wentworth as a man of merit because of her fondness for Anne. Anne Elliot was born a Whig, yet embraced the concept of earned value. Mr. Elliot was a Whig villain in the story: he was the heir to the title, the property entailed to him. Mr. Elliot lived in London “Society”, and married beneath him for gain. When his fortunes declined, he decided to reacquaint himself with Sir Walter and the family. His pursuit of Anne was predatory, to gain influence over Sir Walter, and to ingratiate himself. There are some striking similarities between Mr. Elliot and Wickham.
     Captain Wentworth, Admiral and Mrs. Croft, Captains Benwick and Harville represent a Tory ideal: they rose through their own merits; their personal worth made them acceptable and valuable. They embodied intelligence, hard work, and solid values and merit. Capt Wentworth being the hero and victorious suitor, combined Anne’s regard for his family and friends, show Austen’s solid Tory leanings and her ideas of the best company.
     Clearly, women’s interest in politics depended hugely on what issues had direct impact on them personally, and on the amount of information about the issues to which they had access. Literate women with access to print matter, including newspapers and gazettes, broadsheets, pamphlets, etc. would, for the most part, have been in households with the ability to provide the materials, and with the opportunity and time to read them. I submit that any woman who had family members participating in the war, or who had the opportunity or the ability to observe the effects of inequities in law (as in inheritance laws, debtor laws, civil penalties, etc.) would have some interest in political matters. Jane Austen, in particular, was encouraged to read widely and had multiple family issues, ranging from inheritance to war, which make it highly unlikely that she took no interest in politics. Although clearly having Tory sympathies, there are indications that she is not totally biased. There are hints of certain older establishment sympathies as well. I think it highly possible that Jane was actually of a moderate persuasion, perceiving the positive and negative of both the Whig and Tory positions. The glancing references in her letters and the subtle clues in her books assure us of her knowledge of these matters but only hint as to her opinions.
Washington & Lee University, “The World of Jane Austen” 2009 Alumni College – Dr. Taylor Sanders- Lectures: ‘The British Empire at Full Attention (or Why were all those men in uniform?)’ on 7/21/09, and ‘The Court Jester: Was George III Truly Mad?: The Political Scene’ on 7/23/09; Dr. Marc Conner-Lecture ‘The Economies of Jane Austen: Wealth/Religion/Marriage’ on 7/24/09. (Outlines and my notes)
Austen, Jane. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. London: 1813.
PERSUASION. London: 1817.
Copeland, Edward and McMaster, Juliet, ed. THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO JANE AUSTEN. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. “Religion and Politics” by Gary Kelly, PP. 149-169.
Erickson, Carolly. ROYAL PANOPLY Brief Lives of the English Monarchs. “Epilogue: Historical Turning Points, ‘England in 1714’”, pp. 350-352. New York: History Book Club, 2003.
Johnson, Claudia L. JANE AUSTEN Women, Politics, and the Novel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.
LeFaye, Deirdre, ed. JANE AUSTEN’S LETTERS. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Mitchell, Leslie. THE WHIG WORLD. London and New York: Hambledon Continuum, 2005.
PERSUASIONS, No. 24, 2002. “Jane Austen and the Enclosure Movement: The Sense and Sensibility of Land Reform,” by Celia Easton. PP. 71-89.
Pool, Daniel. WHAT JANE AUSTEN ATE AND CHARLES DICKENS KNEW From Fox Hunting to Whist-the Facts of Daily Life in 19th Century England. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.
ELECTIONEERING (from Robert Southey’s “Letters from England,” written in 1802 [originally published in 1807])
On-Line Research Sources:
GEORGIAN BRITAIN: British History Under George I/II/III/IV and William IV