My Darling Heriott
Jane Brown has created a fascinating biography of Henrietta St. John: ‘My Darling Heriott’ of the title. Henrietta was born in 1699; her lineage included royalty and politicians on her father’s side; her mother was a Huguenot who had fled France.
The dominant person in her life was her stepbrother, Harry St. John, who was twenty-one when Henrietta was born and already a prominent Tory politician. Tragically, it appears that Harry brokered her marriage, which foundered when her husband accused her of adultery. Despite pleading her innocence, Henrietta was banished to a farm in Warwickshire, denied access to her children and given a limited allowance from her own money. On her farm Henrietta shows her determination and energy by creating a romantic garden of woodland walks.
My Darling Heriott is a wonderful insight into the life of an astonishing woman who starts her life within the circle of the court and high politics, and ends it far from the ‘beau monde.’ More than a biography, it sheds light on the role of women, the history of gardening and the moral expectations of the first half of the 18th century.