Rogues Gallery Uncovered
Rogues Gallery Uncovered
Bad behaviour in period costume
A non-judgmental insertion into the scandalous private lives of history’s greatest libertines’ lotharios and complete bastards
This podcast contains adult themes and a touch of colourful language – So Grownups only.
Wicked Jimmy, what a Cunt
Celebrating the long overdue demise of one of the eighteenth century’s most disliked millionaires
SIR JAMES LOWTHER, 1ST EARL OF LONSDALE
The following tale is written in the present tense of the period in which its set…. and as such, may contain attitudes and opinions of the protagonists and their times which would today be considered unacceptable.
As I’m not a long-suffering regency landowner outraged by my neighbour’s psychopathic behaviour, those views and opinions are OBVIOUSLY not mine.
Excellent News! Sir James Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale has fallen off his horse while out riding - of course he was drunk, when isn’t he?
It gets better though – he broke his stupid neck when he hit the ground.
No, hang on, stop laughing, you haven’t heard the best bit – The miserable bastard’s dead.
I know, isn’t it wonderful?
No one ever had a good word to say about “Wicked Jimmy”.
“ The Bad Earl”
Jimmy grasp all , earl of Toadstool”
He was mean, spiteful, vicious, perverted and only ever loved the acquisition of power. It’s little wonder he made such a good politician. They also called him “The Gloomy Earl” although I’d have been dancing a hornpipe with a milkmaids bonnet on my head if I’d inherited three separate fortunes at the age of nine.
Apparently, he was bullied at boarding school, well who isn’t? – being roasted over an open fire by gang of laughing boys builds character.
Within a few years though he was the one doing the bullying and by the time he left to go to Cambridge University he was the most evil, 1st year broiling swine of the lot.
He departed Cambridge without a degree but as one of the richest men in England who needs to be a “Bachelor of Latin?” What Jimmy wanted was influence.
His mother had long drummed into him the importance of power and control over such petty considerations as kindness and humanity – She was a cold woman….never remarried.
James took this to heart and asked for the hand of the Prime Ministers daughter, Lady Mary Stuart – a girl for whom he felt little affection but whose father could be of invaluable help in his political ambitions.
Of course, this marriage of convenience didn’t stop him strapping any other woman who took his fancy.
He said he had seven mistresses on the go at any one time – “A wench for every day of the week.”
His prowess with the ladies though had nothing to do with his appearance.
He was forever dressed in black silk, fussing around with a nosegay in his hand, as if the stench of the rest of the world gave him great offence.
And he was strange…very strange.
They say he took both male and female servants to his bed – whether they wanted to go or not - and that he greatly enjoyed ritualistically beating them.
Apparently, Lowther once persuaded a tenant farmer of his into allowing his young and beautiful daughter to come and stay with him - for her benefit and advancement, obviously.
As planned, she quickly became one of the earl’s mistresses but sadly died of fever not long after. Irritated that he had not “Had his money’s worth,” Lowther is said to have had her head embalmed and placed in a glass case, which he kept in a cupboard – so he could still “visit” her whenever he chose.
When not romantically distracted by severed heads, Lowther was a skilful political schemer.
In 1781 he became the patron of a young barrister by the name of William Pitt who was campaigning to win a parliamentary seat in the town of Appleby.
Appleby was a pocket borough made up primarily of tenants who owed their voting allegiance to one man.
That man was James Lowther, so unsurprisingly Pitt won his seat – although he’d never actually visited Appleby in his life.
William Pitt the Younger was Chancellor of the Exchequer the following year and Prime Minister the next.
Lowther was an expert at manipulating votes and using his wealth to get the results he wanted. In the general elections between 1780 and 1784 no less than nine of the winning candidates – “Lowther’s Ninepins” were directly controlled or heavily influenced by him.
Prime Minister Pitt showered him with titles – he became “baron this” and “viscount that” and was elevated to the peerage.
But he still wasn’t entirely happy because in the list of peerages that particular year, two other gentlemen of quality had been awarded their honours ahead of him.
Loudly, he complained about this outrage in the House of Commons and had to be led out of the building in a headlock.
His irritation however was soon replaced by arrogance.
In 1792, Lowther challenged an army captain – captain Cuthbert of the guards - to a duel because he had the temerity to stop his coach on a busy street.
The street – mount street in London - had recently been the scene of some rioting, so the captain was merely performing his duty in trying to keep the public safe.
“You rascal, do you not know I am a peer of the realm”? Lowther spat at him from the window.
The captain was quick to reply
“ I don’t know that you are a peer but I know that you are a scoundrel for applying such a term to an officer on duty and I will make you answer for it”
Following an exchange of some more equally passionate language the captain felt obliged to accept the potentially fatal meeting.
When they did face each other on the laughably described field of Honour, Lowther’s bullet passed through the folds of Cuthbert’s coat and if it had not _ I’m told – struck one of his brass buttons the blameless officer would have been killed
Not that Lowther would have swung for it.
Someone described him as “A Madman, too influential to be confined”
Which was about right.
And he was a miser.
Unless it was to further his own ends, Lowther had an almost unnatural aversion to spending any of his great wealth.
Lowther Hall was a burnt-out ruin following a fire in 1720 but he continued to live in its crumbling shell because he refused to pay for any repairs.
His coach was a rusting wreck pulled by ungroomed horses.
The coal mines, which were the mainstay of one of his fortunes, were in such a poor state that miners – who worked in appalling conditions – regularly perished in accidents.
When one of them threatened to sue, he promptly closed them all down, making every miner immediately unemployed.
He said he would only re-open them when he received a petition of at least 2,500 signatures begging him to do so and stating in writing that he was no longer legally accountable for any further deaths.
The miners were desperate and soon, he got his petition.
Do you know, he once employed the father of the poet William Wordsworth – who was a solicitor – but refused to pay him for years.
He ended up owing the Wordsworth’s £5000.00 a huge sum which he could easily have paid. But he simply refused Lowther left the Wordsworth family horribly in debt and young William grew up in abject poverty - it’s no surprise therefore that he was passionately in favour of the French Revolution, where the idle rich got their comeuppance.
And then there was Danial Bloom.
He was the manager of one of Lowther’s factories – where they made carpets.
The workforce was made up children who were recruited from foundling hospitals on Lowther’s Yorkshire estates.
Their wages were supposed to be a pittance but Jimmy wouldn’t even pay that so Bloom supported the factory workers out of his own pocket until he was desperately in debt.
Summing up his courage he wrote a letter to the earl asking for financial support for his wife and family
Do you think he got a reply??
I heard that Lowther justified his meanness by saying if he owed money to friends then he already “knew them to be knaves” but if he owed money people he was not on friendly terms with then “how could he know what they were”
He basically thought everyone was as vile as he was and therefore did not deserve to be treated fairly.
The only evidence that this mean-spirited bastard had any heart at all was his devotion to his favourite mistress.
And even that was perverse.
Betsy Lewes had shared his bed for twenty-five years when she died in ‘97.
Not used to having his possessions taken from him before he could discard them, Lowther simply refused to accept, she’d croaked.
He propped the corpse up at the dining table, dressed in her finest clothes and acted as if nothing had happened.When, weeks later, the smell of his decomposing dining companion became too much even for him to bear, he had her embalmed and sealed in a glass-topped coffin.
They say he used the coffin as a sideboard.
And now he has gone to join her – I wonder if she’s pleased.
Lowther was forever riding his horse at breakneck speed with absolutely no consideration for anyone who might get in his way – he used to cover the 300 miles to London in 36 hours - so it came as no surprise that he finally met his end falling from the saddle.
Not one person shed a tear.
There was a rumour that he had been poisoned with a draft that mimicked death and that faint knocking from his coffin at the funeral meant that he had actually been buried alive.
But I strongly suspect that was just wishful thinking.
Following James Lowther’s death, tributes poured in from his devastated peers
“Tyrannical, overbearing, violent, and frequently under no restraint of temper or of reason”
“Equally unamiable in public and private’.
“Lonsdale had a most tyrannical temper and not a spark of gratitude”
“Shocking ferocity and undignified manner of living”
“One of the most worthless men in his Majesty’s dominions, you never hear him spoken of but with the greatest abhorrence.”
He really was a total c****
When they riffled through Lowther’s house, they found five hundred bags hidden throughout the building containing sixty thousand pounds worth of coins.
Each bag was labelled according to the quality of the coins that it contained - “indifferent” “perfect” or “Super Excellent”
Theses were possibly the only things about James Lowther that could possibly have been described as “Super excellent
I was intrigued as to why he was referred to as “Earl of Toadstool” and I think it has something to do with his political chicanery
In 1786 there was an election in Carlisle that Lowther was intent upon winning for one of his relatives.
To achieve this, he brought in 1400 additional voters from out of the area whom he paid to vote the way he wanted.
These “Mushroom Voters” – so called because the number of people voting in the election suddenly “mushroomed” - were actually miners, militiamen and servants who had nothing to do with Carlisle whatsoever and who disappeared back to their own parts of the country once the election was over.
It turns out that the recorder of Carlisle – who wrote down all the voters and fake voters’ details. Was James Boswell the famous biographer of Dr Johnson.
A well-known rake himself it’s not surprising that he wanted to stay on Lowther’s good side by turning a blind eye to his scheming.
Although again not surpassingly their relationship soured – I wonder whose fault that was – and Lowther was heard to threaten to put “a bullet in Boswells belly”
It’s said that if the moon is full on the night of 24 may – the day Lowther died” then his ghost can still be seen driving pell mell through the grounds of Lowther castle.
While this is probably bollocks – let me know if you’re a ghost enthusiast - it would be just like wicked jimmy to want to spend eternity doing as he pleased and pissing people off.
Next time on Rogues gallery Uncovered
Death by fellatio
Sucking the life out of the “Belle Epoch”
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Have a great week and ill see you yesterday