Several months ago I heralded the discovery of some of my Cutler roots, a journey which led me to Eton College, Dorset and smack dab into a noble family in Norfolk. It was a crazy, heady moment, but the journey did not end there. I have been doing a lot of research on the family and have a number of things I can add to the family story.
I will first start with a family tree, which is all important, and will help you better understand the cast of characters I have so far uncovered.

William Windham (1717-30 Oct 1761) & Mary Morgan

Elizabeth Windham (b @1743-1810) m. 1761 Richard Guise (@1735-1806)

1) Sarah Elizabeth Guise (25 Sept 1762) m. 1786 Rev John Cutler (1756-1833)
a) George Annesley Cutler (1787-1798)
b) William Cutler (1791)
c) Charlotte Ann Cutler (1792-1793)
d) John Cutler (1794-1843)
e) Rev Richard Cutler (1794-1873)
f) Edward Cutler (1798-1874)
g) Frederick Cutler (1799-1858)
2) Frances Guise (d Nov 1802) m 1789 Jean Victor Baron m. 1801 John Wright
a) Richard John Baron
b) John William Wright

I will focus my attention on Elizabeth Windham the illegitimate daughter of William Windham of Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk. I have found her to be a fascinating person to look into, mainly because of her origins and the circumstances of her birth. Being the illegitimate daughter of a lesser noble is an odd position to be in, and of course, depended a great deal on the generosity of spirit of her noble parent. I was first struck that she was mentioned in the Oxford Dictionary of Biography’s bio of her half-brother William Windham. This also made it into the Wikipedia entry. This gave me an indication that she was acknowledged by her father.

Genealogical evidence of Elizabeth’s life is very scarce. She only appears on the record with her marriage to Richard Guise in London at St George’s Hanover Square. Then again in the records on her death with her will. So what to make of her life?

William Windham (1750-1810)
William Windham (1750-1810)

Her half-brother was the politician William Windham, and a lot of his writing survives (though heavily edited) to this day. I decided to go and read his diary, which was published in 1866 [The Diary of the Right Hon. William Windham, 1784-1810, Cecilia Anne Baring, London, Longmans, Green & Co, 1866]. This was an interesting read. The editor took great pains in giving footnotes about who was who, who was married to whom, etc. Funny though, she failed to say who Mrs Guise was, but then I guess an illegitimate half-sister is not a thing to talk about in a very Victorian treatment of his words. Anyway, he had a relationship with her, and mentioned her a few times after having visited her. I am not sure if he said more in the original diaries, but what he does say is nice and helpful. There is one reference in the diary about troubles with her daughter’s in-laws. Sadly it does not say which daughter. The historian from the Shelbourne School believed it referred to Sarah Guise-Cutler [email with the school], but it could be Frances Guise-Baron-Wright. I actually think it is likely Frances, who was newly married at the time, but I will talk about that another time.

William visited his sister with his wife, just before her death, and was pleased to see her. She died soon after his visit:
“Letter brought by Amyot and Cutler [her son-in-law], announcing Mrs Guise’s death! I had been out to Lord Grey’s to meet Jerningham, but came too late, having sat up overnight. I, coming back, fell in with George Cockburn, who was on his way to me in consequence of note from enquiring about some circumstances at Walcheren. Could not attend much to what he said, and excused myself accordingly. I wished she could have lived! How one feels now that the opportunity one had of seeing and being with her were not turned to the best account. It is satisfactory, however, to have seen her so recently, and to have parted with such marks of kindness, but still without sufficient impression upon my mind that one was seeing her possibly for the last time.” [29 Jan 1810- page 500]
And he died not long afterwards.

It is all very intriguing, but I guess that I have found the best or the fuller answers in the pages of Felbrigg: The Story of a House by RW Ketton-Cremer [National Trust, 1962/2010]. This was book was written by the last owner of Felbrigg. He donated the house to the National Trust in 1969. He spends a lot of time talking about Elizabeth’s father William, and actually discusses Elizabeth’s life. I was hoping that there would be even more, but I am greedy.

Elizabeth’s father was William Windham, and he was the only son of Ashe and Elizabeth Windham of Felbrigg Hall. He was quite the interesting man, spending a lot of time on the continent, pursuing intellectual and other pursuits, and a bit of a bad-boy. It appears his love life was a constant pain to his parents. Technically engaged to a woman in Geneva, “It did not, at any rate, prevent him from taking as his mistress a woman of obscure origin, Mary Morgan, by whom he had a daughter, Elizabeth. Soon afterwards Mary Morgan died; and he then formed a similar liaison with a handsome widow named Mrs Lukin.” [126] It appears that Elizabeth, Mrs Lukin, her three children from her first marriage and William lived together in Golden Square in Soho. He married Mrs Lukin in 1750 when she was pregnant with their son William.

It is interesting that in the book, Ketton-Cremer, a descendant of Mrs Lukin, casts her in a rather poor light, although this lies mostly with his sources who saw her as an opportunist. Mary Morgan is described by one of William Windham’s cousins (who had ticked him off for causing mischief with his both his mistresses) “Whatever I saw of her was most amiable and praise-worthy.” [127]

Felbrigg Hall
Felbrigg Hall

Fast forward to 1760-1 and Elizabeth is almost fully grown, and her father has now inherited his father’s estate. A man of property, he wrote his will, for “my natural and reputed daughter Elizabeth Morgan commonly called Elizabeth Windham,” should his legitimate son William die without heirs before the age of 21 the greater part of his estate would go to her. This all changed on the 4 October 1761 when he revoked the will and said that his daughter “by her ungrateful and undutiful behaviour rendered herself unworthy my kind disposition.” Any bounty she was to have received was removed, and she was left with an allowance of £80 a year. [157]

That was the year she was married, which is what Ketton-Cramer assumes is the reason, but he had no information really about her spouse, her marriage date, etc, except rumours that he was a schoolmaster from Eton. This he found in the Farringdon Diary, and he himself questions the accuracy of the information or rather Farringdon’s informant. Anyway, her father died the 30th of October that year. Perhaps he might have changed the will back after his anger had worked its way out, or when he met his first grandchild, but that was not to be.

After his death her half-brother William was sent to Eton. One of his guardians reported that contact was limited with his sister “Exclusive of other reasons, such company as probably he would meet with at Mr Guise’s might give the child a tast [sic] for low people.” [161] Thing is Guise was never at Eton, and was not a schoolmaster but a musician, and when he married lived at Windsor Castle. Not sure what was low about him, since he had a degree from Cambridge, and came to be a lay minister and choir master at Westminster Abbey (where he was buried).

My thoughts are that the person who told Farringdon in 1802 [From Ketton-Cramer footnote] about a schoolmaster was confusing Mr Guise with his son-in-law Rev Mr Cutler, who was a schoolmaster originally from Eton…..

Elizabeth Windham clearly had an interesting life and one with both advantages and disadvantages from her birth. Illegitimate, she was raised by her biological father, as his daughter, used his name, was raised in an atmosphere of affluence. She was however not legitimate and this would have made it difficult for her to have married well – so was Guise the best she could do? Not sure since I have yet to find out about his family. He was a university graduate in the 18th century which leads me to believe there was money in his family- a bit of a mystery. That her father disowned her is clear, and it is probably not a coincidence that it was because of her marriage- the dates are close. But it could have been something else? I still haven’t found the birth information for her daughter Frances- was she born before Sarah? Could the timing of marriage and birth been close? All just ideas.

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