Last year I wrote about how the children of my sixth great grandparents Constantine Phipps (1746-1797 and Elizabeth Phipps nee Tierney (1749-1832) were stranded in France during the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.
Constantine and Elizabeth Phipps had fourteen children:
- Mary Ann Phipps 1772–1779
- Frances Phipps 1773–
- Elizabeth Phipps 1774–1836
- Penelope Phipps 1775–1814
- Constantine Phipps 1776–1794
- James Phipps 1777–1795
- Pownoll Phipps 1780–1858
- Lucy Elton Phipps 1781–
- Anna Maria Phipps 1782–
- Weston Phipps 1785–
- Maria Jane Phipps 1786–1822
- John Lyon Phipps 1788–1819
- Charlotte Phipps 1790–
- Elvira Phipps 1791–1875
My sixth great aunt Penelope Phipps (1775-1814) was the oldest of the eight children left behind. She was 17 1/2 when her parents travelled away from their home at Caen, France temporarily. The next oldest child was Pownoll aged 12. The Phipps parents took with them their two oldest living daughters Frances and Elizabeth, who was about to be married, their second son James, and one small daughter, either Lucy or Anna. Penelope’s brother Constantine had obtained a post with the Honourable East India Company and had left for Madras.
So from November 1792 Penelope needed to care for:
- Pownoll Phipps aged 12
- Lucy Elton aged 11 or Anna Maria aged 10 (not sure which accompanied her parents to England)
- Weston aged 7
- Maria Jane aged 6
- John Lyon aged 4
- Charlotte aged 2
- Elvira Jane aged 1
The children were watched over by family friends, in particular two bankers surnamed de la Fosse who loaned money. In June 1793 private property in France – including Caen, of course – began to be seized by Commissioners of the Convention. The house leased by the Phipps was threatened. The children were to be evicted and imprisoned. People in the town protested on their behalf and the children were allowed to remain under confinement with a sentry to guard the house and the stables given over to the military. Through this the Phipps children luckily gained some shelter from the violence of the Terror.
It was only in May 1795 that the children were allowed out of the grounds of their house. Pownoll had previously been granted some freedom and had helped to gather food as well as exploring Caen at the time.
The children knew neighbours who were arrested and executed by the guillotine, including the de Beaurepaire family. Pownoll later married their adopted daughter, Henriette de Beaurepaire, who survived although she was arrested and imprisoned in Paris.
About the same time as Pownoll became engaged to Henriette de Beaurepaire, Penelope became engaged to James Chatry de la Fosse, nephew of the bankers who supported the Phipps family.
In 1797 five of the younger children were affected by smallpox and Penelope nursed them through it.
In 1798 the Phipps family were set at liberty and the children returned to England. Their father had died while they had been in France.
Their mother, Eliza Phipps, disapproved of the engagements of Penelope and Pownoll. James Chatry de la Fosse and Henriette de Beaurepaire were Roman Catholics and French and the English generally disapproved of such marriages.
Pownoll was found a cadetship in the Bengal army and sent abroad.
In 1799 Henriette de Beaurepaire followed Pownoll to England. Some members of the Phipps family, seeking to prevent the marriage of Pownoll and Henriette, arranged to have Henriette arrested as a spy. Penelope found out about the plot and came to the rescue of Henriette.
In 1802 Penelope travelled to Calcutta with Henriette and met her brother Pownoll there. Permission to travel to India and avoiding her family finding out required an elaborate plan. Instead of waiting for her fiancee Jacques to come to England, Penelope chose to help her brother and Henriette. She wrote to Jacques breaking off her engagement.
Pownoll married Henriette on 10 August 1802 in Calcutta.
In October 1806 Penelope, aged 31, married Daniel Johnson (1765-1835) at Allahabad. Daniel was from Great Torrington, Devon and was a surgeon with the Honourable East India Company 1805-1809. Daniel was later the author of “Sketches Field Sports as followed by the Natives of India” (1822) .
Penelope’s nephew, Reverend Pownoll William Phipps (1835-1903) said in his book (page 79) that she was never happy after her marriage and died broken-hearted.
In February 1814 Penelope died aged 38. She was buried at Great Torrington, Devon on 27 February 1814. There appear to have been no children although Daniel had a daughter Jane born about 1799.
- Phipps, Pownoll William. The life of Colonel Pownoll Phipps K.C., H.E.I.C.S. with Family Records. London: Bentley, 1894. pp. 5, 12, 230–231. Viewable through archive.org.
- Marriage notice: The Asiatic annual register or a view of the history of Hindustan and of the politics, commerce and literature of Asia. 1806. p. 5.