A Bermudian Beauty smiles on Trafalgar Square

Edward Cecil Harris looks at a curious episode in the history of Bermuda in this article for the Royal Gazette.

One of the pleasures of writing about history and heritage is the acquisition of new friends, albeit often ones that one can never meet, except through surviving records and, occasionally, images. One such colleague, a friend of old now as we first met some 30 years ago, is Henry William Lauzun, sometimes written Lauzon. I first ran into Henry when looking into the works of Major Andrew Durnford, RE, (and the first mayor of St George’s) on the fortifications of Bermuda in the years shortly after the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the war with the rebels in some of our British colonies, soon labelled the “United States of America”. Henry survives here in a few records, a mention or two in scholarly tomes, in his signature on plans of forts in Bermuda and on a major survey of the island with his boss Durnford. One copy of the last dated 1793 and lately acquired from Memorial University in digital colour is reproduced here.

After Lauzun left Bermuda, about 1794, we lost touch, but by happenstance the friendship was renewed of late, as we can now track his life further, including an attachment with Schweppes, the great ‘mineral water’ company. The reunion came through his wife, the Bermudian Anne Neale Tucker, born at St George’s in 1776 and dying at the goodly age of 85 (local genes perhaps influencing) in the company of her daughters in England. How Henry looked one can but wonder, but Sir Henry Raeburn, the famous Scottish painter, immortalized ‘Nancy’ in a portrait, for many decades now in the collections of the National Gallery in London. Possibly hers is the only image of a Bermudian in that National Gallery, and perhaps in that vein a relation married to a Tucker descendant from Williamsburg, Virginia, Mrs. George (Mary Haldane) P Coleman wrote, in 1935, a small book appropriately entitled The Story of a Portrait.

The Tuckers arrived early in the settlement of Bermuda in the person of one of their first rascals, the third governor, Daniel, who, in 1616-17, through his understanding of draughting (Lauzun’s forte) managed to arrange the survey work of Richard Norwood, so as to acquire an oversized allotment of land, the “Overplus”, in the fine soils of Southampton. Perhaps the most distinguished of the breed in recent times was Sir Henry Tucker, he having a first name oft repeated by the family, causing heartache to historians and genealogists, as they were also prolific in the production of descendants.

In respect of the last ability, perhaps lost in present times, ‘A young lady who spurned the attention of a Tucker is reported to have said. “I would not marry him if he were the best man in the world and every hair on his head were strung with diamonds.” When asked why she felt so strongly, her reply was, “Because his great-grandfather had 14 children, his grandfather 10, and his father 13”.’

From the Tucker lineage, another Henry married Frances, the daughter of Governor George Bruere, and to them at Bermuda during the great unpleasantness with America came Anne Neale, the one girl among many sons, who met Henry Lauzun on the island, presumably in the late 1780s and early 1790s. On July 21, 1792, mother and daughter embarked for Plymouth and made their way north to Scotland to stay with relatives, and it was there three years later that the 19-year-old was painted by Raeburn at Edinburgh, having been left with her “Aunt Bet” amid the high society of that city.

Within the year, Henry of the Lauzun family, though a native of the Channel Islands, reappeared stage centre and he and “Nanette” (to her father, whom she never saw again) were married on May 2, 1796 at London. The Bermudian wife and military engineer husband had seven daughters, none of whom married, but one, Miss Henrietta Frances Tod Lauzun, in her early eighties, donated the Raeburn painting of her mother to the National Gallery in 1900.

While Lauzun continued with his survey and engineering work with the Royal Staff Corps of the British Army, some of that work takes him home to the Channel Islands, where we find him engaged in commercial business as well, having bought the rights, with a brother and another partner, to ‘the whole art, mystery and process of making and composing artificial mineral waters’, a subject that should appeal to Bermudian ‘mindral’ drinkers. The sellers were Jacob and Collette Schweppes, a name that needs little introduction even today in Bermuda.

One history records that ‘As the new century [1800s] dawned, the three Jerseymen were ready to take the company forward. The decision to carry the Schweppes name was clearly a fortuitous one, for the company continued to expand its trade and sales. Schweppes waters could be consigned carriage paid to even the furthest corners of England, Scotland and Wales – it was not confined to the capital like many of its rivals. The export trade also proved to be a lucrative area for the company. A nephew of one of the three Jersey partners, when writing a thesis for a medical degree wrote; “The English have a large business in their artificial waters in the Cape of Good Hope, The East Indies, the Antilles etc.”,’ and presumably Bermuda.

The partnership of 1798 with the Lauzuns and Robert Brohier was dissolved in 1824, four years before Henry William died, apparently in ill health, at the age of 63; Anne Neale Tucker Lauzun lived on for another 33 years. Within the Schweppes years, however, Henry did several stints in the Peninsula Campaign, between which he “commanded the detachment employed in the formation of the beautiful grounds of the Royal Military College of Sandhurst which remain a lasting proof of his artistic taste”.

Should we meet Henry again, I should like to imagine that it would be on the steps of St. Martin-in-the-Fields (where he and Anne were married); that classic English church which flies not the Union Flag but the White Ensign of the Royal Navy, looking out as it does on Trafalgar Square, the memorial to Nelson’s and Britain’s greatest sea victory. Rather, where more fields once graced the landscape between the cities of Westminster and London, we would direct our gaze across the Charing Cross Road to England’s National Gallery of Art, wherein hangs the now famous portrait of his beloved Bermudian wife, “Nancy”.

Perhaps he would then be reminded by her eternal smile over Trafalgar Square that she considered him to be the “best of husbands” for “his study it has been for more than 25 years to make me happy and comfortable’, a concept that might be suggested to many a modern man, especially some in his old stamping ground of Bermuda.

At this time of year, Anne, Henry and I would all then have the opportunity, from the naval epicentre of Britain, to hail you with a very Merry Christmas and the very best wishes for the New Year, which marks the 400th anniversary of the permanent settlement of Bermuda by humans, including shortly after 1612, the Tuckers.

Edward Cecil Harris, MBE, JP, PHD, FSA is Executive Director of the National Museum at Dockyard. Comments may be made to director@bmm.bm or 704-5480.

For the original report go to http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20111224/ISLAND09/712249997/-1

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