The Duke of Richmond

Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond, was 53 when he came to Québec City and nearing the end of a career that, though prestigious, was remarkable for being…unremarkable.

As a military man, he had attained the rank of general, but had authored no heroics. He was elected four times to the House of Commons, where he spent a decade and a half in the shadow of the Pitts and Grenvilles of turn-of-the-century London. And finally, he had served five years as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, where his distrust of Catholics secured for him an ambiguous legacy at best. It must have frustrated him that one of his most renowned achievements was to have barely missed his target in a duel with the son of King George III who had questioned his family’s courage.

To many, his wife, Charlotte, was better known than he was, having hosted the famous ball on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. Living in Belgium in 1815 after their stay in Ireland, the duke and duchess socialized with the elite of Wellington’s army. Charlotte chose the evening of the 15th of June to invite them to a hall near their home in Brussels. During the duchess’ ball, the news came in that Napoleon was on the march to the south of town. The British officers in attendance made their polite apologies to the hostess and left to meet the advancing French army.

Perhaps the Duke of Richmond saw his appointment as Governor-in-Chief of British North America as an opportunity to defend the Lennox name and strengthen the family legacy. He certainly had a full slate of promising projects to direct when his ship brought him up the St. Lawrence River in July of 1818; there were defenses to reinforce in Lower Canada and canals to build in Upper Canada.

He would not have time to see his plans to fruition, however. While traveling through the Canadas just a year after he arrived, he was, of all things, bitten by a diseased fox. Rabies ensued and he died near an Ontario town that now carries his name.

When you visit Québec City today, you will find the Duke of Richmond buried in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. A plaque marks the spot where they laid him to rest in 1819.

Bronze Richmond


25 thoughts on “The Duke of Richmond”

  1. Mary Beth Johnson

    I also enjoy these little history lessons, and look forward to your emails. I am sure I speak for the entire group from Church of the Assumption….Happy Spring!

  2. I really enjoy reading all of your ‘history lessons’. They always bring back fond memories of our short, but educational time with you on our tour of Quebec City.

  3. Delightful bit of history! With names like Charles, Charlotte and Richmond, us U.S. “wanna-be Canadians” might be tempted to invent some connection between this couple and the eastern coast of the U.S. I checked to make sure that Charlottetown, PEI, is not named after the lady. Alas, the Birthplace of Confederation was apparently named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, “queen consort of the United Kingdom,” whatever that means.

  4. Enjoy your history lessons as we did during our visit to Quebec.
    Living near Richmond VA I can tell you it was founded in 1737 and named for a city near London. Having just visited Tasmania I can also tell you there is a very old (by Australian standards) city there named Richmond. Must be a popular
    English name.

  5. Thank you, Neil, for helping me keep what I refer to as “the north country” very much in my heart and mind!

  6. Millicent Broderick

    Thanks Neil. Always interesting. What was he doing with the fox anyway?! Nature is pretty, except close up.

  7. I know it has been some time since visiting your city, but I still enjoy your history bits sent, thank you Pauline

  8. I love the Canadian and French history lessons .Please keep sending them. Mimi. Weinberger Bohrer PS. I think of you when I drive near your family home on the way to Ivy Falls.

    1. I love the French and Canadian history lessons. I too was the victim of a possibly rabid animal. Lucky for me I had the shots. I think of you on my way to see my grand kids.

  9. Nice pic of the Duke. Thanks for the short history lesson. Still remembering our cruise up the St. Lawrence River and you made it a lot more enjoyable.

  10. Sharon Johnson

    I look forward to your bits of history. It takes me back to when I was on your tour in Sept. Great fun. Thanks Neil.

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