Saturday, December 11, 2010
Past Lives: The Earl's Little Secret, or How Thomas Carter was Born
Thomas Carter by Thomas Hickey, 1787.
In 1766, Murrough O'Brien lived at Rostellan Castle with his deaf wife, Mary, who was also his cousin. Rostellan was owned by her father, the 4th Earl of Inchiquin; this man had no sons of his own, and so he set up his nephew to marry his otherwise unmarriageable and hearing-impaired daughter. Thus Mary would be provided for when Murrough inherited the earldom from his uncle and became the 5th Earl of Inchiquin in 1776. And Murrough did provide...but he also cheated on his wife.
He and Mary did succeed in having one child, a daughter, also named Mary; she would go on to become the Countess of Orkney in her own right, the title for which she eventually inherited from her deaf mother. But in 1766, Mary was their only child, and one suspects the relationship between Murrough and his wife was not very close. Toward the end of his life, Murrough would boast he had "lived with [his wife] in a manner so proper that he can reflect upon it with satisfaction." Did this mean he treated his wife with respect and did not force himself upon her? If so, he must have channeled his affections somewhere.
That somewhere was Abigail Aston.
You see, Murrough had a neighbor in Cork, the Earl of Shannon. Lord Shannon's son, Henry Boyle, had a tutor, and this tutor was Abigail Aston's relative. Just how Abigail ended up visiting at Castle Martyr is not known, but she clearly did, and Murrough apparently took a shine to her in 1766. In 1767, a boy named Thomas Carter was born -- no record survives of that birth, so we don't know who was listed in the register as his parents -- and this boy spent the rest of his life being treated as a psuedo-son by Murrough O'Brien.
Thomas Carter was supposed to have been born to Murrough's poor tenants in Cork -- this was the official story circulated when Thomas was brought to England in 1780. At some point, Abigail Aston also ended up living near Murrough in Buckinghamshire, as did her sisters, who were also lifelong friends of his. When Murrough died, he left Abigail money. When she died, she left her portrait of Murrough to his widowed second wife. Thus Thomas grew up with both his parents watching over him, and his education and travels to Italy and India were financed by Murrough under the guise of charity. Thomas was living in Murrough's home when he met the daughter of a neighborhood reverend and fell in love.
That daughter was Mary Wells.
To learn more about your own past lives, try my method for reincarnation self-regression.