Henry Robartes Wyatt

Henry Robartes (his middle name Robartes being in honour of his aunt Bridget’s husband, Robartes Carr), was born on 17 February, 1790 in Calcutta and baptised there on 21 July.[1] He joined the 1st Life Guards as a cornet on 22 September, 1812, achieving the rank of lieutenant on 22 November, 1813. Henry served in the Peninsular War in the campaigns of 1814 and 1815, being present at the Battle of Toulouse and at the capture of Paris, receiving the Army General Service medal with one clasp.[2] He was promoted to captain on 11 November, 1819, then jumping over the rank of major, was made a Lieutenant Colonel on 21 May, 1827. Although, he was not given the rank of colonel until 23 November, 1841, he was referred to as such in 1836, when he reviewed the West Yeomanry Cavalry. Neither was he attached to a regiment at this point, as on 16 August, 1827, he had gone on half pay. [3]

The troop of West Yeomanry Cavalry above 80 strong… were inspected on Thursday last… by Colonel Sir Henry Robartes Wyatt, of the 1st Regiment of Life Guards… The inspecting Colonel arrived precisely at the hour appointed, two o’clock; immediately after the troop commenced going through their various evolutions, which continued for more than two hours, and which they performed with a steadiness and precision so as to merit and call forth the approbation of the gallant Colonel… (The Essex Standard, 24 June, 1836)

Soon after leaving active service, on 27 January, 1829, Henry married for the first time, in London. His wife was Martha Hughes, the widow of Cynne Lloyd, who was brother to the first Lord Mostyn. There were no children of this marriage, as although Martha was about ten years younger than Henry, she was still about 48 when they married. Martha died ten years later in London and was buried on 8 April, 1839 in St. Marylebone church.

In 1841, Henry, although still unattached to a regiment, was given the rank of Brevet Colonel, brevet signifying that this was a honorary rank, typically a reward for gallantry or meritorious conduct. However, trouble was in store. Most likely as a result of debt, he was called before the Sheriffs’ Court in order to avoid being proclaimed an outlaw.

Sheriffs’ Court, Thursday: Outlawries – A County Court was held this day on behalf of the Sheriffs, when Mr. Hemp, the officer, called upon the undermentioned defendants to  come forward and surrender themselves into custody, on pain of being proclaimed outlaws, viz:- … Sir Henry Robartes Wyatt, Knight, to answer John Stanley and another. (The Morning Chronicle, 19 November, 1842)

Perhaps as a result of the trouble outlined above, by the end of 1846 Henry was in active service again, this time in the 29th Foot, as Lieutenant Colonel.

29th Foot. Brevet Colonel Henry Robartes Wyatt, from half-pay Unattached, to be Lieutenant Colonel, Vice Brevet Colonel James Simpson, who exchanges. Dated 8th December 1846. War Office 8th December 1846. (London Gazette)

At some point in his life, at least before 1836, Henry Robartes had received a knighthood and is consistently addressed as such, even in official documents. It does not appear to have been a British knighthood and one can only speculate that it was a French honour, as this is the country in which he spent the final years of his life.

He was certainly in France in 1840 when married for the second time on 8 September in the British Embassy Chapel in Paris.[4] The record of their marriage describes Henry as of Calcutta and his wife as from Anglia in North Wales. Louisa Henrietta Sheridan was the only child of Captain William Brownlow Sheridan of County Dublin, Ireland. She was at least 20 years Henry’s junior and already well-known as a caricaturist, as she had been for some years the editor and chief author of The Comic Offering, or Ladies’ Melange of Literary Mirth and edited The Diadem, A Book for the Boudoir. “Louisa Sheridan (later Lady Wyatt) was one of the first British caricaturists in the British periodical press and, in the competitive field of the annual, the first woman to bring out her own comic annual, as editor, author and illustrator of the Comic offering…”[5] The marriage lasted only a year, as Louisa died on 2 October, 1841 in Paris and is buried in the Montmatre Cemetery there.

Henry was still in Paris in 1844, at No. 3, rue des Champs-Elysées in Paris, as he is listed there at that date when giving an affadavit on behalf of David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre, who was also living in the city. Dyce Sombre, an Anglo-Indian, was fighting a case of lunacy brought against him by his wife and her relations; Henry’s affadavit declared that the man’s conduct in both public and private was “mild and gentlemanly.”[6]

Henry lived until 1865, dying on 18 March at 20, Rue de la Ville L’Evèque, Paris. He left his estate, of which the principal part was the sum of 3,398 francs, Four-and-a-Half percent. French Government Rentes,  in three parts divided amongst Miss Mary Hill, of the same address as himself, the sole executrix, to his sister, Charlotte Carte and his brother, Augustus.[7]

[1] India Office Records, British Library: N/1/4 f.102.

[2] “Lionel S. Challis. Peninsula Roll Call.” Available: http://www.napoleon-series.org/research/biographies/GreatBritain/Challis/c_ChallisW.html; Hart’s Annual Army List…1867 p. 114.

[3] His progress through the ranks is from various sources, principally Hart’s Annual Army List.

[4] Non-Conformist Record Indexes RG 33, Piece 69.

[5] Brake, Laurel and Marysa Demoor. Dictionary of Nineteenth Century Journalism. Gent, Belgium: Academia Press, 2009.

[6] Mr. Dyce Sombre’s Refutation of the Charge of Lunacy Brought Against Him in the Court of Chancery. Paris: The Author, 1849, p. 93

[7] The Pall Mall Gazette, 24 May, 1865.

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