Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fitzgerald, Pamela

FITZGERALD, PAMELA (1776?–1831), wife of Lord Edward Fitzgerald [q. v.], was described in her marriage contract of 1792 as Anne Stephanie Caroline Sims, daughter of Guillaume de Brixey and Mary Sims, as a native of Fogo Island, Newfoundland, and as about nineteen years of age. Though she has generally been regarded as the daughter of Madame de Genlis by the Duke of Orleans (Égalité), this statement of her Newfoundland birth is confirmed by information now obtained from Fogo. Henry Sims, a respectable planter who died there in 1886, at the age of eighty-two, believed Pamela to have been his cousin. Mr. James Fitzgerald, the present magistrate of Fogo, on arriving in the island in 1834, made the acquaintance of Sims, who informed him that his grandfather, an Englishman living at Fogo in the latter part of last century, had a daughter Mary, that she was delivered of a child at Gander Bay, and in the following summer sailed with her infant for Bristol, in a vessel commanded by a Frenchman named Brixey, and that the Simses heard nothing more of mother or child until they learned from Moore's book that Lord E. Fitzgerald married a Nancy Sims from Fogo. Newfoundland had no parish registers at that date, but Henry Sims's story may be true, though there is the bare possibility of the death of the child in infancy, and of the transfer of her pedigree to a second child placed under Mary's charge. It may be conjectured that when in 1782 she was sent over by Forth, ex-secretary to the British embassy at Paris, to be brought up with the Orleans children, and familiarise them with English, the object was to divert attention from the arrival a little later of a child known as Fortunée Elizabeth Hermine de Compton (afterwards Madame Collard), who died in 1822 at Villers Hélon. Hermine, who, unlike Pamela, was recognised by the Orleans family in after life as a quasi-relative, was in all probability Madame de Genlis's daughter by Égalité, and was perhaps born at Spa in 1776. In a scene between Madame de Genlis and Pamela, witnessed by the latter's daughter, there was moreover a positive disclaimer of maternity (Journal of Mary Frampton, letter of Lady Louisa Howard to Mrs. Mundy,1876). Unveracious, therefore, though the lady was, her story may be credited that Forth casually saw the child at Christchurch, that he sent Orleans 'the handsomest filly and the prettiest little girl in England,' that, enraptured by the girl's beauty and talents, she had her conditionally baptised, conferring on her her own name, Stéphanie, and the pet name, Pamela, and that to guard against extortion by the mother, she paid the latter in 1786 twenty-four guineas for a legal renunciation of all claims. The belief of the Fitzgerald family, in deference to which Moore retracted his original acceptance of the Orleans-Genlis parentage, and Louis-Philippe's opposite conduct to his two old playmates, strengthen this conclusion. Against it must be set Pamela's alleged likeness to the Orleans family ; the rumour of 1785 (see Grimm, Correspondence), that Monsieur de Genlis had acknowledged both Pamela and Hermine as his own children, sent away in infancy to test the difference between children brought up with and without knowledge of their status ; Égalité's settlement on Pamela about 1791 of fifteen hundred francs, increased on her marriage to six thousand francs ; and Madame de Genlis's statement in her memoirs (1825), assigning the paternity to a legendary Seymour of good family, who married a woman of low birth named Sims, took her to Newfoundland, and there died, whereupon widow and child returned to England. Of winning manners, though devoid of application or reflection, Pamela was applauded by the mob on their way to Versailles (Madame de Genlis had sent her out, with grooms in Orleans livery, to ride through the crowd), was the ornament of her adoptive mother's political receptions, and went with her to England in 1791, when Sheridan is said to have offered her marriage, and been accepted, he being struck by her resemblance to his late wife. To that resemblance is also attributed her conquest of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, who, objecting to 'blue stockings,' had refused to meet the Genlis party in England, but saw Pamela at a Paris theatre, was immediately introduced to her, was invited to dinner next day, joined the party on the road, on their expulsion from Paris as émigrees, accompanied them to Tournai, and there married her, 27 Dec. 1792. The Tournai register, which, like the marriage contract, overstates her age by at least three years, gives her father's name as Guillaume Berkley, and London as her birthplace, but this may be imputed to the carelessness of the officiating priest. The future Louis-Philippe was present at the ceremony. Arrived at Dublin, Pamela indulged her passion for dancing, but failed to win popularity. Meanwhile the Paris revolutionists, misled by a report of her travelling in Switzerland with her adoptive mother, issued a warrant against her. She gave birth to a son in Ireland, and in 1796 her second child, Pamela, was born at Hamburg. Madame de Genlis, then staying there, represents herself as remonstrating against Lord Edward's political vehemence, and Pamela as replying that she avoided discussing politics with him for obvious reasons. Their domestic happiness seems to have been unalloyed. Her third child was born while her husband was in concealment and paying her secret visits. On his arrest she was ordered to quit Ireland, and after his death repaired to Hamburg, whence she had had an invitation from her old companion, Henriette de Sercey, Madame de Genlis' niece. Henriette had married a Hamburg merchant, Mathiesson, and Pamela hoped there to be able to recover the Orleans annuity. Her children seem to have stayed behind. She shortly afterwards married Pitcairn, the American consul at Hamburg, by whom she had a daughter (who was married and living at New York in 1835), but a separation soon ensued. She is next heard of as encountering, about 1812, in a Dover hotel, Casimir, another of Madame de Genlis's adopted children, and as giving her English creditors the slip by accompanying him to Paris. Resuming the name of Fitzgerald, she first lived at the Abbaye-aux-Bois, next lodged with Auber, the composer's father, and then went to Montauban to lodge with the Due de la Force, commandant of Tarn-et-Garonne. There she is said to have had the freak of acting as a shepherdess in the costume of Fontenelle's pastoral heroines. She appears to have paid at least one visit to Paris about 1820, when Madame de Genlis forgave her abrupt departure from Paris and cessation of correspondence. At this period her home was at Toulouse. After the revolution of 1830 she revisited Paris, apparently in the hope of royal favour, but received little notice, and died eleven months after her adoptive mother, in November 1831, in a small hotel in the rue Richepance. Though enjoying a pension of at least ten thousand francs, she is said to have left nothing, so that Louis-Philippe had to be applied to — probably by Talleyrand, who attended it — to provide a proper funeral at Montmartre. In 1880, a legal informality necessitating the removal of her remains, they were interred by her grand-children at Thames Ditton.

[Information through Sir G. W. Des Vœux rom Mr. James Fitzgerald, J.P., Fogo ; Mémoires de Madame de Genlis ; Tournai register ; Moore's Life of Lord E. Fitzgerald ; Madden's United Irishmen ; Mémoires d'Alexandre Dumas ; Parisot's article in Biographie Universelle; Times, 25 Aug. 1880.]

J. G. A.