Frederick, Colonel (DNB00)


FREDERICK, COLONEL (1725?–1797), also known as Frederick de Neuhoff, author of ‘Description of Corsica,’ was, by his own account, the only son of Theodore Etienne, Baron de Neuhoff, king of Corsica, by his wife, an Irish lady named Sarsfield, daughter of Lord Kilmallock, and one of the suite of Queen Elizabeth Farnese of Spain. The date of his birth was supposed by his family to be about 1725 (Ann. Necrology, 1797–8). According to the ‘Nouvelle Biog. Univ.’ vol. xlv. (under ‘Theodore’), on the authority of Theodore's private papers preserved in the archives of the French Foreign Office, Theodore absconded from Spain with his wife's jewels in 1720, spent the proceeds in speculations in Paris during the ‘Mississippi’ craze, which was at its height in the winter of 1719–1720, and, after visiting England and Holland, resided at Florence in the imperial service until he went to Corsica. His son Frederick appears to have been educated at Rome, and states (Description of Corsica, p. 34) that he ‘served several campaigns under some of the most experienced generals of the age;’ also that when the Corsicans were struggling for their liberties, he and two Corsican gentlemen, Buttafuoco and Colonna, who had served with distinction in the Corsican regiment in the pay of France, offered their services to Paoli, which were rejected. Frederick then came to England ‘to share his father's misfortunes.’

Theodore in 1736 had been proclaimed king of Corsica, but having subsequently lost his throne, and failed to regain it by English aid, came to England an exile, and became a prisoner for debt in the Fleet. He obtained his discharge under the Insolvent Act by giving up all his effects to his creditors, his sole effects being his claim to the kingdom of Corsica, which was duly registered for their benefit. He died soon afterwards, on 11 Dec. 1756, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Anne's, Soho, where Horace Walpole, who had been very kind to him, erected a tablet to his memory. Frederick, his son, arrived in England about 1754, and appears to have assisted his father as far as he was able. He supported himself as a teacher of Italian, and had some fashionable pupils, including Macklin and Garrick. Another of his pupils was Alexander Wedderburn [q. v.], afterwards lord chancellor Loughborough, to whom Frederick appealed for help in his latter years. Frederick appears to have gone to Germany, and at some time or other held, it is said, some subordinate post in the cabinet of Frederick the Great. In 1768 he published in London his ‘Mémoires pour servir a l'Histoire de la Corse,’ and an English version ‘Memoir of Corsica, containing the Natural and Political History of that important island … together with a variety of particulars hitherto unknown.’ The work was alleged to have been compiled from the information of Edward Augustus, duke of York, brother of George III, who had died at Monaco the year before, and who was interested—or whom it was wished to interest—in Corsican affairs. After another brief visit to Germany, Frederick returned to England with a green uniform, a cross of military merit, and the title of colonel, and as ‘Colonel Frederick’ became the recognised although not accredited agent in London of the reigning grand duke of Würtemberg. He is said to have arranged for the duke the sale of a regiment of his subjects to the English East India Company, and he claimed to have made arrangements on behalf of the English government, during the latter part of the American war of independence, for the hire of three thousand Würtemburgers and one thousand Hohenlohe troops, and to have incurred heavy expenses in providing for their pay and subsistence, to prevent their entering the pay of Holland after their services were refused by the English government. Pitt refused to admit this claim, on the ground that it should have been settled by Lord Shelburne before leaving office. Frederick continued to press it again and again without success for many years afterwards, and alleged that he had forfeited the favour of the Duke of Würtemberg, through representations that the money had been paid to him and misapplied (see Ann. Necrology, 1797–8, pp. 351–61). As given by Frederick's biographer, the details suggest official shuffling. A man of many acquirements, intimately versed in the details of continental etiquette and diplomacy, a well-known frequenter of fashionable coffee-houses in London, where, despite many eccentricities, his gentlemanly bearing rendered him a general favourite, Frederick appears to have been employed on a variety of confidential services (ib.) One of these was the unsuccessful attempt of the Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV, and two of his royal brothers to raise a loan on the continent in 1791, when Frederick was employed as their agent. When Corsica was annexed in 1794, Frederick brought out a new edition of his book, under the title of ‘Description of Corsica, with an Account of its Union to the Crown of Great Britain. Including a Life of General Paoli, and the Memorial presented to the National Assembly of France respecting the Forests in that Island’ (London, 1795, 8vo). A duplicate copy of this book, now in the British Museum Library, contains numerous marginal notes in the author's handwriting, many of them relating to Paoli, made with a view to a fresh edition. Frederick had once been friendly with Paoli, but had quarrelled with him. Although most abstemious in his habits, Frederick appears to have often been in pecuniary straits, and as years rolled on, his liabilities became more pressing. At last, harassed by creditors, and neglected by his fashionable friends, he shot himself through the head, in the porch of Westminster Abbey, on the morning of 1 Feb. 1797. A coroner's jury brought in a verdict of 'lunacy,' and a week later he was laid beside his father in the graveyard of St. Anne's, Soho, where a tablet was put up by private subscription collected by Lady James.

In person Frederick was spare, of middle height, with an erect military gait, which he never lost, a pleasing countenance, and a dark olive complexion, bespeaking a southern origin, and contrasting in age with his silvery locks. During one of his residences on the continent Frederick married a German lady, who bore him two children, a son, Theodore Anthony 'Frederick,' a bright, promising lad, who was killed as an ensign in the British 15th foot at the battle of Germantown, Philadelphia, 4 Oct. 1777, and a daughter, married to a custom-house officer, named Clark, at Dartmouth. Mrs. Clark had several children, including a son, Frederick Anthony Clark, an ensign West Suffolk militia, and afterwards in the 5th foot, and a daughter Emily, an authoress and miniature painter. Miss Clark wrote 'Ianthe.' published by subscription in 1798, and a small book of poems, and some volumes of minor fiction published between 1798 and 1819. She was an exhibitor in miniature at the Royal Academy in 1799.

[The best biography of Theodore, king of Corsica, is in Nouv. Dict. Univer. vol. xlv., based on his private papers preserved in the French archives. The particulars agree with those given in Brit, Mus. Add. MS. 23738, f. 159. A sketch of his history, correct in the main, is given in Dr. J. Doran's 'Monarchs retired from Business,' i. 238-47. The best account of Colonel Frederick is given by a writer, who seems to have known him intimately, in a volume of neglected biography bearing the title 'Annual Necrology, 1797-8' (London, 1800, 8vo). The date of his death is, however, wrongly given as 1796, instead of 1797. For the latter see Gent. Mag. vol. lxvii. pt. i. p. 172, and Ann. Reg. 1797, p. 11. In Percy Fitzgerald's Life of George IV there is (i. 225-334) a succinct account of the attempt of the royal princes to raise a foreign loan; in the same work (ii. 1) it is asserted that the notorious Mrs. Mary Anne Clarke [q. v.], mistress of the Duke of York, was 'a daughter or goddaughter of Colonel Frederick'—an absurd misstatement for which there is not a shadow of foundation.]

H. M. C.