Sarah is suspicious.

Dealings with her devioius agent

By Ruth Herman

In this series of letters Sarah Churchill is seen to be increasingly frustrated at the behaviour of her financial agent.  Wymondesold was later in trouble through some shady dealing in South Sea Company stock.  Here the Duchess is clearly wondering whether he is deliberately being evasive to avoid giving her back her money.  She is calling on Lord Cowper because he is a sufficiently important player to deter Wymondesold from his devious practices


D/EP F63, 123


1st October, London 1715


I hope this will find my dear Lady Cowper much the better for the country air, and the happiness of being so long in the company you like in quiet. The last is what can’t be had in this place, and I fear it will yet be worse before it is better; for my Lord Stair[1] says, in his last Account, that the Duke of Ormond is gone with a few Servants post from Paris.[2] The Duke of Berwick[3] was seen the Day before, which is all that is said of him in Lord Stair’s letter; but another Person has given an Account that he had lately pawned his Jewels and Plate. My Lord S[tair] had no Notice of the Pretender being gone from Bar when he writ, but the Duke of Ormond may have better Intelligence of his Motions, and if he is not yet removed, that would agree with other Intelligence that he will not come to us till his Friends are in some Order here to receive him. I don’t find that the News from Scotland is so bad as some reported [it] , and I am apt to believe the Duke of Argyle[4] aggravated that Matter a good deal ; for at the very same Time that a very terrible Account came from His Grace, I saw a Letter from the Postmaster of Scotland,[5] which said our Enemies there were not above 2,600 [three thousand six hundred?], and there is no Certainty of any Numbers that have joined them since ; but from so many Men having escaped being secured, and the Duke of Ormond having left Paris, I fear we shall soon hear of some Rising. [I think]They say the Duke of Somerset is at Petworth;[6] but before he went I am told he did what Service he could to our Enemies which was no manner of surprise to me and I do [calm?] myself a little upon what was once called being very obstinate when one of my friends could persuade [me] to have anything to say to that man.


When I see my Lord Townshend,[7] I shall have a great Mind to desire him to compute [compose?] what Good and what Mischief the Duke of Somerset has done since our Friends shook Hands with him. [which] puts me in mind of a thing I once heard which I liked mightily, that if ministers would once take honesty as a servant upon [loyalty] they would never part with it. Tis very probable that I can write nothing that is news to you tho what I have told you is from a good hand.  If that happens to be the case I beg your pardon and now I will desire leave to trouble you with a little of my own affairs in hopes you will be so good as to send me Lord Cowpers advice upon them. About a month ago I wrote to Mr  Wymondesold to desire he would let me know if I was obliged to give him any notice or how much to have the 4100 pounds upon bonds paid in for I thought I should have a mind to dispose of my money some other way. He said he would answer me but never did and I have sent to him twice since but he will not come to me.


I have sent this morning Hodges[8] to see if he can find him and to get him [Mr. Wymondesold]  to advise what is to be done with the Bonds; for that of the South Sea,[9] which is for 2,100/., is not worth so much by 2 or 300/. at this Time, [as I am informed] and upon the Duke of Ormond’s Landing, or any Disorder, [there is no doubt but] all Stocks will fall very much, and, though I am not so much frighted as to part with my own, I think I should not run the Hazard of other People’s for 5 per Cent. Interest, which I agreed with Mr. Wymondesold to take upon the first Money he paid me at 6, though I did not change the Security. [I am as much as tis possible for anybody to be my dear Lady Cowper most faithfull humble servant.]


(Signed) S. Marlborough.


Mr. G[ipton], the Jeweller, was with me just now, and told me there was 28 Men sent to Newgate last Night out of Convent Garden Parish. One may write anything by the Post very safe, as long as Mr. Craggs[10] is in the Office.


D/EP F79 15

October 4th 1715

This letter follows on from Sarah’s letter to Lord Cowper two days earlier



Some extraordinary business prevents me the honour of waiting on your Grace myself to acquaint you that the South Sea stock being in my Lord Chancellor’s name it will be necessary for your Grace to give his Lordship notice that the stock may be transferred for which I will always be ready on the least notice. As to the manner of payment I have contrived to answer your Grace’s occasions for that due the 24th July is not due till the 24th January.


I am your most obedient and faithful and humble servant


Mat(thew) Wymondesold



October 27 1715[11]

I am come to town and one of the first things I am desirous to be informed of is your health dear Lady Cowper I have not heard of it a great while but I hope in God you are well. If you are what I am going to desire will be no great trouble, and if you are not I desire you will burn this letter and proceed no father.[12]

You may remember some time ago I troubled you about my concerns with Mr Wymondesold and  my Lord Cowper  too, who enabled me to receive two thousand pounds upon the South Sea security, there is now only two thousand pounds upon bank stock which will want his authority to receive, and I fear a little more trouble than the last for I find plainly that Mr Wymondesold thinks by his shuffling that he can impose upon me, and if Lord Cowper would be so good as to send for him he would be afraid of playing any tricks with him and make an end of what I desire.[13] I think I gave you an account of this matter once before but for fear you have forgot it I will repeat it in this letter.  About three months ago I wrote to Mr Wymondesold to ask him what notice was usual to give to receive one’s money upon such security, which had been a very long sufficient warning if he had taken any notice of my letter.

After a long time and two or three messages he wrote me word that he had spoke to the gentleman concerned in the bank security and that the money should be paid [in?] the first of No[vember] but now he has told a man I employed to go to him that I may have one thousand pounds upon Monday next  and the other thousand about a week hence, that he desires the writings may be at the exchange to endorse the first one thousand pounds upon Monday next, and if his friend desires to have half the stock transferred to him upon paying half the money he will let me know it.  This seems to me to be an unnecessary trouble for money that might have been demanded sooner, and that he did agree to pay all [of?] it upon the first of No[vember]; but without doubt he has some [big?] end in what he proposes, and if any ill news comes to the publick[14] in less than a week the stock in two days after will run down so fast as to make it reasonable to add the security rather than to take from it, which I believe at this very time is no more than just to make good the conditions of the bond which says that it must always be kept to be of the nature of three hundred pounds more than the principle of which there is almost a year due of interest.[15] I beg your pardon for this long account and am ever your most faithful and obliged

Humble servant

S. Marlborough




[1] Lord Stair was a Whig and had been a successful general and became a British representative in Paris.  He worked hard to prevent the French supporting the Jacobite uprising of 1715.  He ran an intelligence service.

[2] James Butler, Duke of Ormond, Tory. On the change of government in 1714 he was impeached for high treason and left England in July 1715 for Paris. He was appointed the Pretender’s Captain General in 1715 and spent the rest of his life unsuccessfully supporting the Jacobite cause.

[3] The Duke of Berwick was the natural son of James II and the Duke of Marlborough’s sister and lived most of his life in France.  He was appointed captain general of the Jacobite forces in Scotland but was refused leave to leave France to take up his post.

[4] The Duke of Argyle, John Campbell; Marlborough wrote to Sarah: ‘I cannot have a worse opinion of anybody than I have of the duke of Argyle, but what is past cannot be helped’ Supporter of the Hanoverian succession he foiled a Jacobite attempt on Edinburgh

[5] The Secretaries of State found the post office one of the most convenient means for spying on Jacobites.

[6] Somerset was one of Sarah’s life-long enemies, his wife having taken over as Anne’s principal female attendant when Sarah lost her job. He resigned from his office of master of the horse in 1715 when his offer to stand surety for his Jacobite son in law.  Despite being the Churchills’ inveterate enemy on the death of his wife, he proposed to the newly widowed Sarah.  Not surprisingly she declined.

[7] Townshend was secretary of state for the northern department 1714 to 1716 and worked to suppress the Jacobite uprising.

[8] A senior member of staff in the Marlborough household

[9] South Sea Company, now known principally for the ‘Bubble’. Sarah was one of the people who made money out of the scheme.

[10] James Craggs was a close associate of the Marlboroughs and at the time of writing was the joint Post Master General.  He was deeply implicated in the South Sea Bubble crash and eventually died of apoplexy which was rumoured to be suicide.

[11] Some of the punctuation has been altered to make some sense of this very confusing letter.

[12] In her diary of around this time Lady Cowper talks of her husband’s illness but does not mention her own health.

[13] See Sarah the Businesswoman on Herts Memories for some insight into the shady nature of Wymondesold, the agent

[14] Sarah is referring to the Jacobite uprising which was looking uncomfortably successful.   It collapsed shortly after but it would have had a serious effect on the financial world if it had succeeded.  Not surprisingly there was a great deal of nervousness in the financial markets.

This page was added on 03/03/2016.

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