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.