Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Godolphin, Margaret

GODOLPHIN, Mrs. MARGARET (1652–1678), friend of Evelyn, born 2 Aug. 1652, was daughter of Thomas Blagge of Horningsheath, Suffolk (a royalist colonel, and governor of Wallingford, who on the Restoration became governor of Yarmouth and Landguard Fort), by Mary, daughter of Sir Roger North of Mildenhall. Her father died 14 Nov. 1660. He had accompanied the second Duke of Buckingham in his escape after the battle of Worcester. Margaret Blagge was entrusted when very young to Buckingham's sister, wife of the third Duke of Richmond, then in France, who transferred her to the care of Buckingham's first cousin, Elizabeth, countess of Guilford. The countess, though a ‘bygott proselitesse,’ could not persuade the child to go to mass. On the Restoration she returned to her mother in England, and about 1666 became maid of honour to the Duchess of York (Anne Hyde). She attended the duchess in her last illness, and upon her death (31 March 1671) became maid of honour to the queen. One of her companions, Anne Howard, granddaughter of the first Earl Berkshire (afterwards Lady Sylvius), introduced her to John Evelyn. She became strongly attached to him, gave him a declaration of ‘inviolable friendship’ in writing (signed 16 Oct. 1672), and ever afterwards considered herself as his adopted daughter. She resolved soon afterwards to leave the court, and went to live with Lady Berkeley, wife of John, lord Berkeley of Stratton. Lord Berkeley's brother, afterwards second Viscount Fitzhardinge, had married the aunt of Sidney Godolphin, afterwards first earl [q. v.] Godolphin had long been Margaret's lover, although there were difficulties in the way of their marriage, chiefly, according to her account, from his absorption in business, which made the retired life which she (and he, as she says) desired impossible. She wished at one time to go to Hereford, to live under the direction of the dean, her ‘spiritual father.’ On 15 Dec. 1674 she was induced to appear at court to act in Crowne's ‘Calisto.’ She was ‘Diana, goddess of chastity,’ other parts being performed by the Princesses Mary and Anne, Lady Wentworth, and Sarah Jennings, afterwards Duchess of Marlborough. She was covered with jewels worth 20,000l., and ‘performed the principal part to admiration.’

After much hesitation she was privately married to Godolphin 16 May 1675 by Dr. Lake. She still lived with the Berkeleys, and accompanied them on Lord Berkeley's embassy to Paris at the end of the year. She returned in the following April, when her marriage was acknowledged, and in the autumn she settled with her husband in Scotland Yard, Whitehall. On 3 Sept. 1678 she gave birth to a son, Francis [q. v.], afterwards second earl Godolphin, took a fever, and died 9 Sept. following. She was buried at Breage, Cornwall, on the 16th following. Evelyn soon afterwards addressed an account of her life to their common friend, Lady Sylvius. He quotes many of her papers, and describes her beauty, talents, and virtues, her deep religious convictions, her charity to the poor, her methodical employment of her time, and her observance of all her duties. Although some allowance should perhaps be made for his pious enthusiasm, there can be no doubt that her nobility and purity of life form a striking contrast to the characteristics of the courtiers generally known by the memoirs of Grammont.

[Evelyn's manuscript came into the hands of his great-great-grandson, E. V. Harcourt, archbishop of York, by whom it was entrusted for publication to Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Oxford. It was first published by him in 1847, with useful notes by John Holmes of the British Museum. See also Evelyn's Diary.]

L. S.