A generous marquess and a light-fingered tutor

The marquess of Salisbury had employed Charles Marchand (a German national) to tutor his son, the little Lord Cranbourne for a little over 18 months. Unfortunately while Marchand may have been an excellent teacher he was also a little dishonest. Perhaps the family hadn’t paid him that much or perhaps it was all too easy to for him, but in 1837 (the year Queen Victoria ascended to the throne) Marchand helped himself to some of the household’s possessions.

He appeared at Queen’s Square Police Court in Westminster on a charge of taking a harp that belonged to the family’s governess and a ‘very valuable’ gold watch owned by the young lord himself. He was also accused of pinching a ‘handsome cloak’ from the Rev. Mr. Lite of Brixham in Devon. Whether this means the cleric was a family friend or visitor or indicated that Marchand had previously been employed away from the capital is not made clear. Marchand had pawned the cloak and the harp and had handed the duplicates (the pawnbroker’s tickets) over to the arresting officer.

This looked bad for Marchand; as the magistrate noted the thefts amounted to a serious felony and had he been convicted before a jury at Old Bailey he could have expected a lengthy prison sentence or transportation to Australia.

But it was also embarrassing for the Cranbournes. Their family name was in danger of being further dragged through the courts (and the newspapers) and it would have unsettled noble families up and down the country to think that one of their most ‘respectable’ servants could steal from them. Marchand was also German and given the background of the new queen and her consort (who had been crowned just over a week before) the sooner this could be hushed up the better.

The court was told that no prosecution would be brought against the tutor. The boy had his watch back after all, the family could hopefully recover the items from the pawnbrokers. The justice was uncomfortable but there was little he could do. He was told that the marquess would pay the costs of the tutor’s travel back to the continent and there was an end of it.


A footnote: the little lord was to grow up to be Lord Robert Cecil (later Viscount Cranbourne). He was 7 at the time of the thefts and his father (the 2nd Marquess) was a prominent politician. Lord Robert followed his father’s path and became Prime Minister three times between 1885 and 1902. He was the last PM to lead his party from the House of Lords and was considered a safe and very conservative Conservative.

His motto was (allegedly) “Whatever happens will be for the worse, and therefore it is in our interest that as little should happen as possible.”

[from The Morning Chronicle , Friday, June 30, 1837]

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