Circumstances of a Peculiarly Distressing Nature


Another funerary monument in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, this one carved by Sir Francis Chantrey in 1826. It represents the Hon William Stuart, Archbishop of Armagh who died in London in 1822 at the age of 68 owing to an unfortunate error. As recounted by The Gentleman’s Magazine at the time: ‘The death of his Grace took place under circumstances of a peculiarly distressing nature, which have excited in the breast of every human being, to whose knowledge they have come, feelings of the deepest regret and commiseration. This melancholy event was unhappily occasioned by an unfortunate mistake in administering a quantity of laudanum instead of a draught. His Lordship was attended in the morning of the 6th by Sir H. Halford, who wrote a prescription for a draught which was immediately sent to the shop of Mr Jones, the apothecary, in Mount-street, in order that it might be prepared. His Lordship having expressed some impatience that the draught had not arrived, Mrs Stuart enquired of the servants if it had come; and being answered in the affirmative, she desired that it might be brought to her immediately. The man had just before received it, together with a small phial of laudanum and camphorated spirits, which he occasionally used himself as an external embrocation. Most unluckily, in the hurry of the moment, instead of giving the draught intended for the Archbishop, he accidentally substituted the bottle which contained the embrocation. The under butler instantly carried it to Mrs Stuart without examination, and that lady not having a doubt that it was the medicine which had been recommended by Sir H. Halford, poured it into a glass and gave it to her husband!- In a few minutes, however, the dreadful mistake was discovered; upon which Mrs Stuart rushed from the presence of the Archbishop into the street, with the phial in her hand, and in a state of speechless distraction. Mr Jones the apothecary having procured the usual antidote, lost not a moment in accompanying Mrs Stuart back to Hill-street where he administered to his Lordship, now almost in a state of stupor, the strongest emetics and used every means which his skill and ingenuity could suggest, to remove the poison from his stomach, all, however, without effect.’
And the moral of this unhappy episode: always check anything brought to you by the under butler…

3 comments on “Circumstances of a Peculiarly Distressing Nature

  1. Patrick says:

    Is the statue of Henry Maxwell in Cavan town square is by Chantrey also ?

  2. Bob Frewen says:

    Another of Chantrey’s works has a fascinating back-story.
    When William IV came to the throne in 1830, one of his first acts was to invite Chantrey to produce a life-size memorial statue of his former mistress, Mrs Jordan (Dorothea Bland), who bore him nine children. It was his intention to have it placed in Westminster Abbey. Chantrey finished the work in 1834 but it was never collected and was still there when Victoria acceded to the throne. The ‘Establishment’ did not want a Royal mistress alongside past queens and for the next century the statue was shuffled between various places until lost from public memory. It was ‘rediscovered’ in the 1950’s and on the death of the owner, the 5th Earl of Munster, (a direct descendant of William IV and Jordan) in the mid-1970’s. it was bequeathed to Queen Elizabeth II. It is now installed in the picture gallery at Buckingham Palace.

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