I must confess to not being particularly thorough in completing the family tree of the Guise family during my initial burst of enthusiasm following the discovery of Elizabeth Windham and tracing out a number of the Cutlers, especially Sarah Elizabeth Guise Cutler. Of course that is the way with genealogy, it is never complete, and there are always different lines to research, and enthusiasm and energy ebbs and flows. It is a way to keep it fresh and interesting.
So here is a reminder of who Frances Guise was. She was the daughter of Richard Guise and his wife Elizabeth Windham (aka Morgan). Frances was born the 24 March 1772, and baptised the 20 April the same year at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle (New Windsor), where her father was lay vicar. She married Jean Victor Baron at St Margaret’s Westminster the 6 July 1789. They had a son, Richard John Baron, who was born 22 November 1792 in London.
Frances does not appear in many documents after this. She reappears in 1801 when she marries John Wright, in 1802 when she dies, and in 1803 when her son John William Wright is baptised.
The most interesting documented connected to her is her burial record, if you can call it that. In the book “The Marriage, Baptismal, and Burial Registers of the Collegiate Church or Abbey of St Peter, Westminster” [ by John Lemuel Chester, Harleian Society, 1876] In the book, her father’s burial is recorded. Richard, who died in 1806, had served as choirmaster of the Abbey (among other things- see elsewhere on this blog). Apparently Frances’ death and burial at the abbey was written on a scrap of paper and placed in the register. Here is the entry:
[Page 468] 1802, Nov 17 Frances Wright, died Nov (-) [in the Cloisters]. This entry occurs only on a loose slip in the register, headed “Enquiries to be made respecting the following funerals” It contains fourteen entries, all of which, except this are found in their proper places in the Register. Her husband, John Wright, administered to her estate 29 Jan 1803, when she was described “Frances Wright, formerly Baron,” formerly of Annonay, France but late of St James, Westminster. She was the daughter of Richard Guise, master of choristers, etc. (see his burial 17 Mar 1806; and note thereto) who, in his will, mentioned her surviving husband, and her son by each husband.
These are the clues to finding out more about Frances. There are a few brick walls right now, but this is what I know and suspect. First I will start with her first marriage – to Jean Victor Baron. According to the register for St Margaret’s both lived in the parish where they were married, and both were single. I have no idea what he did for a living, nor who his parents were. I suspect that his family lived in London, as Frances’ mother had talked with her brother William Windham about her daughter’s in-laws at the time of Frances’ marriage [so vague as it doesn’t say which in-laws, but her sister Sarah’s were deceased] This was mentioned in William Windham’s diary which was published in the nineteenth century. What were the problems? No details were provided.
Yes, the Barons were likely French, and of course there is the fact that Frances’ husband’s name was Jean-Victor. She lived in Franch, Annonay, specifically, after her son’s birth in 1792 and before 1801. What was an Englishwoman doing in Revolutionary France? I first tried to understand where in France she was located. Annonay is located in the Rhone-Alps region of southern France. The town is famous for two of its citizens, the Montgolfier brothers, who pioneered balloon flight. Compelling, but not as much as the fact that the city is known for its paper making (which the Montgolfier Brothers were also involved in). Was Jean-Victor Baron an artisan? An artist?
Frances had returned to England by 1801, and it was likely her husband’s death which precipitated the move. She marries John Wright 18 November 1801 at St James’ Picadilly. Again the registers are rather vague as to who Wright was, besides being the groom.
Here is where I was before I began trying to find out more about their son John William Wright. I had first researched Richard John Baron, her first son [read elsewhere in the blog about his interesting life] and it seems to me that he didn’t live with his stepfather after his mother’s death, but was likely with his Guise grandparents. I am specifically struck by the concern made his grandmother in her will, ensuring that he have a strong financial footing. John William is not mentioned in her will, only in his grandfather’s will : He also gave £500, out of a sum due to him from his son-in-law John Wright to his grandson John-William Wright, and, if he died in his minority, the same was to go to said Richard-John Baron, whom he called the brother of said John-William”
So what became of Frances’ baby? In searching through the official records for John William I had to be very careful. The name is, after all not that unusual, but by careful searching I found a John William Wright who died in 1848, and whose father was John, and the birth year and place matched. Here is where things got a bit interesting. John William was an artist of some repute. An obituary appearing in the Gentleman’s Magazine stated that he inherited his artistic talent from his father, a miniaturist, and his mother who was also a miniature painter. The article states that he was a legatee of his grandfather ‘Dr. Guise’ “but was deprived of the ample means to which he was justly entitled.” [Gentleman’s Magazine, January 1848]. Since he only inherited the £500 that his father had borrowed from his grandfather, it would appear his dad did not pay his debt. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and Wikipedia both state that his mother’s name was Priscilla Guise. There are no primary sources cited for his mother’s name, so despite the difference in first names I am confident that John William Wright the painter is Frances’ John William Wright.
So Frances was a miniaturist, if John William’s biography can be trusted. Is this why she was in France? Did she and her first husband travel in the same circles of artists? Is this how she met her second husband?
I have a bit of a to-do list then for this – I think that my first focus is her French interlude, so I will have to write to the Archives at Annonay and see if they have any suggestions for research sources, direction or maybe a hired gun (researcher) which can solve this puzzle. I also see that I will have to get a copy of John William’s death certificate, and see if I can find Frances Wright’s will.
More research awaits!