Philip Champion de Crespigny (1738 – 1803), one of my fifth great grandfathers, married four times. His third marriage was to Clarissa Brooke on 1 July 1774 at St Marylebone. They married by licence with the consent of her father, James Brook(e) of Rathbone Place. She was a minor, of the parish of St Marylebone. Philip was recorded as an Esquire, of Walton upon Thames, County of Surry, widower. He signed his name PC Crespigny. The witnesses were James Brooke and Hester Brooke.

Clarissa Sarah, daughter of James Brooke an engraver, and Esther Brooke nee Bent of Fleet Street in the City of London, was born on 29 April 1755 and baptised on 3 June 1755 at St Bride’s Fleet Street. Clarissa’s mother Esther later left her husband and became an actress.

The Gentleman’s Magazine London, England July, 1774

Clarissa and Philip had four children:

  • Clarissa (about 1775 – 1836) who married Edward Toker
  • Maria (1776 – 1858) who married John Horsley
  • Harry (1777 – ?) baptised 14 August 1777 at Walton-upon-Thames, Surrey and presumably died young
  • Fanny (1779 – 1865)

Clarissa and two of her daughters were painted in 1780 by George Romney. By 1780 Romney’s portraits, according to Horace Walpole, were ‘in great vogue’. Romney’s diary notes that the painting was oval and he charged fifty pounds.

Fifty pounds in today’s value is around £7,000 ($AUD13,000) when measured as a real price. However it could be valued as the labour earnings of that income or wealth equivalent to £80,000 ($AUD150,000) or looked as relative income value of that income or wealth being £95,000 ($AUD175,000). I think the two latter values more closely measure how much Romney was earning and thus what Philip needed to earn in order to pay him.

Clarissa Champion de Crespigny and two of her children by George Romney. It would seem that the daughters shown are Clarissa born about 1775 and Maria born about 1776.
The painting was last sold in 1989 from a private seller to a private buyer through the London dealers Leger Galleries. This image is from a reproduction of the painting and came from Alex Kidson, Research Fellow of the Romney Society.

Clarissa had appointments to sit for the portrait on 14 and 17 April and each of the four days from 13 to 16 June 1780. She cancelled four further appointments around those dates. In his 2015 catalogue of the paintings of George Romney, Alex Kidson notes the unusual landscape oval format and the “subtleness of design in the angling and interlocking of the figures”.

Clarissa died on 15 May 1782 in Palace Yard, Westminster, and was buried at St Marylebone on 22 May. She was twenty-seven years old. A short biographical piece on her father refers to her as an amiable and accomplished lady who died in the prime of life.

Smith, Thomas. (2013). A Topographical and Historical Account of the Parish of St. Mary-Le-Bone, Comprising a Copious Description of Its Public Buildings, Antiquities, Schools, Charitable Endowments, Sources of Public Amusement, &c. London: Forgotten Books. (Original work published 1833) retrieved from http://www.forgottenbooks.org/books/A_Topographical_and_Historical_Account_of_the_Parish_of_St_1000735867 The same obituary appeared elsewhere, for example in the Hampshire Chronicle of 2 November 1807.

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