Frederick English’s Children and their Families

(Eliza) Catherine, in the letters usually called Kate, but sometimes Kit or Kitty, and on official documents Eliza, was born in Suffolk and was 22 when her father sailed to the West Indies. She had musical talent, and sent sheet music, probably copied by hand, which her father passed to the military bands: ‘The Regt are now marching to Kit’s Galope’ (letter 15) and ‘The Master of the Band has arranged all the music that Kate has sent me’ (letter 17).

The Colonel enquired from time to time about possible suitors for Kate, but she remained single throughout the period of the letters. However, in Jersey she met and married Charles le Quesne (1811-56), a member of a prominent local family. Charles was a merchant and shipowner, but he had academic interests too as a political economist and writer. He is listed in ODNB. The marriage took place at St Helier on 6 November 1843 and there were seven children, of whom two died in infancy.

Catherine Esther, (1844-1936), was at school and living with her grandmother in Cheltenham at the 1861 census, and living in Jersey, unmarried, in 1911. Isabel Edith was born in 1846 and died in 1860. Charles Frederick Nicholas, born 1848, was a Lieutenant in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry at Aldershot in 1881, retired Colonel by 1901, and died in Paddington in 1923. Florence Anne, born 1851, was also at her grandmother’s in 1861, and also unmarried in Jersey in 1911: she died in 1936. The youngest, Claudine Mary, was born in 1852 and died in France in 1856.

I have found no record of marriage or children for any of Catherine’s offspring.

Frederick, also born in Suffolk, was 20 when the letters began, and had just been commissioned Ensign in the 35th (Sussex) Regiment. In the letters he is usually referred to as Fred, sometimes as Fritz.

During his father’s time in the West Indies, his regiment was in Ireland, where he was promoted to Lieutenant and (letter 59) appointed assistant adjutant of his battalion in July 1836, then acting adjutant in February 1837 (letter 72). Ignoring his father’s stern warnings against matrimony, his engagement to a Miss Keating in 1839 caused him to be labelled a blunderer in letter 119, not for the last time. However, the wedding did not take place, and in 1840 he was gazetted Captain.

In 1850, still a Captain, he married Ellen, daughter of the late Admiral Collier, and stepdaughter of his mother’s friend Lady Collier. The wedding took place at Stinsford Church near Dorchester, later made famous in Thomas Hardy’s Under the Greenwood Tree, and where that writer’s heart is buried. We may speculate on whether Hardy’s father and his friends provided music for the wedding.

In the early 1850s a daughter, Ellen Mabel, was born; in 1880 she married Luther Munday, a planter in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) who returned home and became a successful promoter in the London theatre world. No record has been found of children of this marriage.

Fred’s wife Ellen accompanied him and the regiment to India where, in 1856, he transferred to the 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment with the rank of Major. It is not clear whether the child was with them, but sadly the mother Ellen died at Moulmein in Burma (now Mawlamyine, Myanmar).

In November 1857, Fred was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, and within days he was leading the 53rd in the relief of Lucknow under Sir Colin Campbell. He was awarded the Indian Mutiny medal with Lucknow clasp.

1860 finds him in Calcutta (Kolkata), marrying his second wife, the 17-year-old Ellen Sophia Maling, whose father is described in one source as a Gentleman and in another as a Commander in the Royal Navy. At the 1861 census the regiment was in Devon. In the following year Fred became a full Colonel, and by 1867 he was retired on half pay with the rank of Major-General, and awarded the CB, an honour his father had coveted (letter 109).

Fred and his young wife retired to Charlton Kings, a village on the edge of Cheltenham, near to his mother and sisters. By this time, they had a daughter, Ida Mary Sophia, and in 1874 a son, Ernest Robert Maling, was born. Fred was in deep financial difficulties when, having mortgaged his army pension, he was declared bankrupt. He died at Charlton Kings in 1878. His widow went to live with her daughter, who married Mark Style, a surgeon. The last record I have found of them is at Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire at the census of 1911. There is no record of the Styles having children.

Thus Fred outranked his father; his nickname ‘the Blunderer’ was justified for his financial ineptitude, but certainly did not apply to his military career.

Ernest English followed his father in the 53rd Regiment, and served in both the South African and Great Wars. He retired in 1919 with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, was twice wounded, and was awarded the DSO and the Croix de Guerre, and was twice mentioned in despatches. He married and had a daughter (who died unmarried in 2001), and died in 1941.

Caroline (Cara) also born in Suffolk, was 19 in 1834. She was living, unmarried, with her mother at the 1851 and 1871 censuses, (but not in 1861), and at Caldicot, near Chepstow at the time of her mother’s death in 1877.

(Edward) Augustus, often called Gusto in the letters, sometimes Toby, was born at Fort George in 1820. Probably one of his father’s last acts before sailing in 1834 was to take his 14-year-old second son to see the Master-General of the Ordnance, Lieutenant-General Sir James Kempt, in the hope of gaining a cadetship at Woolwich for him. Coached by Mr Ambler, he passed the entrance examination, but once enrolled at the Academy, he fell at the first hurdle and, much to his father’s dismay, was discharged in November 1834 (letter 50).

He was then placed under Mr Dixon (letter 69) to learn business. We are not told what Mr Dixon’s business was, but the next official document relating to Augustus, his marriage certificate, reveals that in 1853 he was manager of the National Provincial Bank – the ‘Nat’ in today’s Natwest – in Teignmouth, Devon. His bride was Susan Curtis, who died at the birth of their daughter Catherine Susan in the following year. Augustus did not marry again; he died at Wokingham in Berkshire in 1891, aged 70. Young Kate, who did not marry, was brought up by her grandmother, lived with her in Cheltenham and Caldicot, and later moved to Harpenden in Hertfordshire, where she died in 1939. It was she who preserved the letters.

Anne Frances – usually Annie, but sometimes nicknamed Fop – was born at Fort George and was aged 11 when the letters began. There are several references in the letters to a problem with her eyes, suggesting that she had had an accident. The most explicit is in letter 69: ‘I sincerely hope dear Annie’s eye will be saved, poor girl. The loss of one I deplore but total blindness is more than I can support the thought of.’ Then in letter 85: ‘Am happy to learn that Annie’s eye is better’. Her firm signature as a witness at Augustus’s wedding does not look like that of a blind person. She was living with her mother in Cheltenham at the 1851, 1861 and 1871 censuses, and at Caldicot when her mother died in 1877. When Augustus died in 1891, she was living at Holyport, Hemel Hempstead, where she died aged 75 on 7 January 1898.

Isabella, 8 as the letters began, not surprisingly for the youngest child, had several pet names: Skylark, Flush, Fan and Bow all appear to refer to her. She was born at Fort George in about 1825. She was single, living with her mother in Cheltenham at the 1851 census. She died at Cheltenham on 16 March 1855.

I have been unable to trace any living descendant of Frederick and Catherine English.