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Seeking the Frances in Francestown


More Scandal, More Spending

In Nova Scotia, old patterns continued. John spent much of his time surveying in the wilderness and Fanny spent her time alone. With their son Charles-Mary attending school in England, Frances was stuck in a city she believed lacked culture. She amused herself by entertaining the officers of the British Royal Navy stationed in Halifax. She even convinced John to build a magnificent home in the fashionable section of Halifax, furnishing and staffing it in a style that made her contemporaries envious.

During this period Frances met Prince William Henry, the third son of King George III. The prince was stationed with the Royal Navy in Nova Scotia for weeks at a time from 1786-1789. Frances became his mistress at age 41, although Prince William was still in his twenties. According to one source: "Although the couple never appeared together in public, their liaison was well known, even John Wentworth was to become aware of what went on during his many absences as the Surveyor General. He made nothing of it."

Apparently John and Frances Wentworth had what might today be called an ‘open marriage". John too had his ladies, including a black servant who reputedly bore his illegitimate child. John may have had other mistresses and other children. Novelist Thomas Raddall never alludes to any of these, focusing instead only on the character of Frances in his "historical biography". Raddall also suggests that it was Fanny’s relationship with Prince William that enabled John to become royal governor of Nova Scotia in 1792 and this is where The Governor’s Lady concludes.

John Wentworth had problems in Nova Scotia too. In an effort to make his new colonial outpost profitable and cultural, he spent more than he earned. HIs debts accrued in New Hampshire were eventually absorbed by the British government because Wentworth remained a loyalist. He might also have been removed from his second royal post, had it not been for British patrons.

In his biography of John Wentworth, historian Paul Wilderson paints a final sad picture:

"When Wentworth retired in 1808 at the age of seventy-one, he and his wife returned to England to live out their days on a meager pension. Yet one last tragedy awaited him. In 1812 creditors hounded him for payment of debts incurred in his official capacity in Nova Scotia. To avoid prison, Wentworth, at the age of seventy-five and with his wife ill, was forced to flee under an assumed name. From Liverpool he embarked for Halifax where he could sell some property to meet his debts. Sadly, Frances Wentworth died during his absence. With no reason to go back, John Wentworth remained in Halifax until he died in 1820."

Separated by an ocean, the two royal lovers from New England ended their lives as exiles. John Wentworth was buried beneath St. Paul’s Church in Halifax. Fanny’s other lover, Prince William, became king of England at 62, sixteen years after her death.

Deborah Lee McGrathtaught World History and US History for 20 years. She is currently working to reinstate an adult education and enrichment program in the ConVal School District in NH. She is also a freelance newspaper writer and photographer.


NIllustration: The picture at the top of this article is a detail from the cover of yet another novel about John and Frances Wentworth. The novel "The Last Gentleman" was published by Random House in 1960 by NH author Barker.


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