English conjurors

On 27 April 1845 a folded sheet of paper arrived by mail in Windsor and was stamped with an ink post mark. Addressed to “­__ Bachelor Esqre, Chapter Clerk, Windsor’, it was presumably delivered to the Chapter Clerk later that day.  However, it is not signed nor annotated and, although there are two earlier postmarks on the dorse, “Hopetown 1D PAID” and “A PAID 26APR 1845”, there is no indication of where or by whom it was posted:  there are at least two Hopetowns in England – one near Wakefield in Yorkshire and one near Darlington in County Durham. Whoever sent it was unlikely to have known the Chapter Clerk personally, since a dash was inserted in place of a first name and the surname was incorrectly spelt – the Chapter Clerk’s name was in fact Thomas Batcheldor, not Bachelor. 

The missive was not a letter, but a printed political poem entitled ‘English Conjurors’ dated April 1845 and printed at Lordan’s Romsey Press.  The conjurors to whom the anonymous poet referred were British Prime Ministers, past and present, including the Duke of Newcastle (as satirised in Smollett’s novel ‘Humphrey Clinker’) and Sir Robert Peel, who in 1845 was serving his second term as Prime Minister. Portraying Britain’s leaders as idiotic and unprincipled, the author accused “Tamworth’s orthodox and gifted son” [Peel] of seeking popularity at any cost, displaying “His excellence in clever pantomime/ Sure as a mechanist, applause to win/ Great in the mask of sliding Harlequin”.  The Maynooth grant (the increase of government financial aid in 1845 to the seminary in Maynooth, Ireland, to assist in the training of Roman Catholic priests) was mentioned in the poem as an example of Peel’s lack of principle. In lending his support to the grant, Peel was attacked for his betrayal of the Protestant cause in order to win Irish support, the magazine ‘Punch’ declaring:

How wonderful is Peel
He changeth with the Time

Turning and Twisting like an Eel
Ascending through the Slime. *

It would be interesting to know the sender’s motive in transmitting this political poem to Thomas Batcheldor within a month of its publication (whether to amuse, annoy or influence the Chapter Clerk) and fascinating to know the spirit in which he received it. A further mystery remains unsolved – how the document ended up in the Berkshire Record Office, from whence it was transferred to the St George’s Chapel Archives in 1963.     

Clare Rider (Archivist and Chapter Librarian)

* quoted by Asa Briggs, The Making of Modern England, 1784-1867. The Age of Improvement, Harper and Row, 1959, p.342 – see www.victorianweb.org/religion/Maynooth_Grant.html

The King's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.