Voices from Colonial America

Town Life,
page 13 of 14

What a picture of the times! the fashionable though impecunious Englishwoman and the score of industrious young Dutch-American seamstresses sitting daily and most unwillingly in the Governor’s parlor.

One of the most grotesque episodes in New York political history, or indeed in the life of any public official, was the extraordinary notion of this same Governor, Lord Cornbury, to dress in women’s clothes. Lord Stanhope and Agnes Strickland both assert that when Cornbury was appointed Governor and told he was to represent her Majesty Queen Anne, he fancied he must dress as a woman. Other authorities attribute his absurd masquerade to his fond belief that in that garb he resembled the Queen, who was his cousin. Mrs. Montgomery said it was in consequence of a vow, and that in a hoop and head-dress and with fan in hand he was frequently seen in the evening on the ramparts. A portrait of him owned by Lord Hampton shows him in the woman’s dress of the period, fan in hand. Truly it was, as Lewis Morris wrote of him to the Secretary of State, “a peculiar and detestable magot,” and one which must have been most odious and trying to honest, manly New Yorkers, and especially demoralizing to the soldiers before whom he paraded in petticoats. When summarily deposed by his cousin from his governorship, he was promptly thrust into a New York debtor’s prison, where he languished till the death of his father made him third Earl of Clarendon.


:: Previous Page :: Next Page ::

Books & articles appearing here are modified adaptations
from a private collection of vintage books & magazines.
Reproduction of these pages is prohibited without written permission. © Laurel O'Donnell, 1996-2006.