Government House and the Apparition of Major Blomberg to the Governor of Dominica
Since 1978 Government House has been the home of the President of Dominica. It was commissioned by Sir William Young, 1st Baronet (Born 1724/5 – Died 1788), who was the first British Governor of Dominica, sworn in on 17 November 1770. There is a story about the Sir William Young being visited the ghost of Major Blomberg in his residence in Dominica.
The following account is how the experience was described in Accredited Ghost Stories (1823) by T M Jarvis. ‘Early in the American war Major Blomberg the father of Dr Blomberg was expected to join his regiment which was at the time on service in the island of Dominica. His period of absence had expired and his brother officers eagerly anticipating his return as vessel after vessel arrived from England without conveying the looked for passenger declared one to another “Well at all events he must come in the next”. His presence in the island now became indispensable and the governor impatient of so long an absence was on the point of writing a remonstrance on the subject to the authorities in this country, when as he was sitting at night in his study with his secretary and remarking on the conduct of the absentee with no very favourable or lenient expressions, a step was heard to ascend the stairs and walk along the passage without. “Who can it be”, exclaimed the governor, “intruding at so late an hour”. “It is Blomberg’s step”, replied the secretary. “The very man himself’, said the governor and as he spoke the door opened and Major Blomberg stood before them. The major advanced towards the table at which the gentlemen were sitting and flung himself into a chair opposite the governor. There was something hurried in his manner, a forgetfulness of all the ordinary forms of greeting and abruptly saying “I must converse with you alone” he gave a sign for the secretary to retreat. The sign was obeyed. There was an air of conscious superiority about the manner of the visitor that admitted no dispute. “On your return to England”, he continued, as soon as the apartment was cleared of the objectionable witness. “On your return to England, you will go to a farm house near the village of _________ in Dorsetshire, you will there find two children, they are mine, the offspring and the orphans of my secret marriage. Be the guardian to those parentless infants. To prove their legitimacy and their consequent right to my property, you must demand of the woman with whom they are placed at nurse the red Morocco case, which was committed to her charge. Open it, it contains the necessary papers Adieu. You will see me no more”. Major Blomberg instantly withdrew. The Governor of Dominica surprised at the commission at the abrupt entrance and the abrupt departure, rang the bell to desire some of his household to follow the major and request his return. None had seen him enter, none had witnessed his exit. It was strange, it was passing strange. There soon after arrived intelligence that Major Blomberg had embarked on board a vessel for Dominica which had been dismasted in a storm at sea and was supposed to have subsequently sunk, as she was never more heard of about the time in which the figure had appeared to the governor and his secretary.
All that Major Blomberg had communicated was carefully stamped in the memory of his friend. On his return to England, which occurred in a few months after the apparition above described had been seen by the governor, he immediately hastened to the village in Dorsetshire and to the house in which the children were resident. He found them, he asked for the casket, it was immediately surrendered. The legitimacy and the claims of the orphans of Blomberg were established and they were admitted to the enjoyment of their rights without any controversy or dispute. This tale was related to the late Queen Charlotte and so deeply interested her, that she immediately adopted the son as the object of her peculiar care and favour. He was brought to Windsor and educated with his present Majesty, of whom he has through life, been the favourite, the companion and the friend.’
The son mentioned in the story above that was taken in by England’s Queen Charlotte (Mecklenburg-Strelitz) (Born 19 May 1744 – Died 17 November 1818) was Dr Frederick William Blomberg (Born around 1760). He has been referred to as one of the best cellists in England, even playing duets with the future King George IV whom he was brought up with.
It has been suggested that the ghost story was created to cover up the fact he was actually an illegitimate son of King George III. According to the ‘The Annals of Bristol in the Nineteenth Century’ (1887) by John Latimer (1887) ‘Cynical people offered a perfectly unromantic explanation of Dr. Blomberg’s good fortune. That he was brought up at Windsor appears certain, and it was generally agreed that in features he strikingly resembled the royal family.’ I don’t know if his parentage was ever proven one way or another, but the story of the ghost of Major Blomberg does seem to change over time.
Edmund Bogg published the following account in ‘Northern Notes and Queries devoted to the antiquities of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmorland, and Durham : v.1, no.1-8, Jan. 1906-Oct. 1907’ in a piece entitled ‘A Newcastle Lady at St. James’.
Miss, by courtesy Mrs., Henrietta Cotesworth was the daughter by a second marriage of William Cotesworth of Gateshead Park, who represented the borough of Newcastle in the Parliament of 1708, and was High Sheriff of Northumberland in 1719. She was three years’ old when her father died in 1726, and soon afterwards her mother married Dr.John Mawer, rector of Middleton Tyas in Yorkshire, in which church there is a curious monument to his memory, stating that he was descended from the Royal Family of Mawer (there were Welsh Kings of this name) and was “inferior to none of his illustrious ancestors in merit, being the greatest Linguist that Nature ever produced.”
Apparently this heritage of merit only included a talent for languages, for when his stepdaughter left school and went to live with her mother, we are told that his violent temper obliged her to leave home and take up her abode with her guardian and cousin, Charles Cotesworth, of St.Helen’s, Auckland, whose children were her contemporaries.
Her father’s large fortune went to her half-sisters, Mrs.Carr and Mrs. Ellison, but he left Henrietta £1,000, and this was doubled by the success of a lottery ticket given her by her guardian, which unexpected piece of good luck probably decided the course of her future life.
With an independence worthy of a later century she determined to travel, and spent the next few years of her life in Italy and Germany. On her return, at the house of Sir William St. Quentin, Scampton near York, she met Lady Charlotte Finch, then at the Court of George III, and in 1760, on the day the Prince of Wales was born, she obtained through her the appointment of sub-governess in the Royal nursery, Lady Charlotte being the head governess.
Unfortunately Mrs. Cotesworth left St. James’ before Fanny Burney went there, otherwise we might have had an interesting picture of her from that lively lady’s pen. As it is, information concerning her life is very meagre, and exists chiefly in old letters now in the possession of her guardian’s descendants.
She is described as a “small person, plain but with most beautiful dark eyes and most ladylike in her every action.” Apparently her days were passed between St. James’ and Kew Palace, and it often happened that she remained at Kew with the children when the Royal couple left their quiet family circle for official duties in London. We are told by Fanny Burney that the King and Queen lived like the “simplest country gentlefolks,” and no doubt Mrs. Cotesworth’s life was a pleasant one, in spite of the “violent spirits” of her pupils, and their “riots” and “the difficulties they caused in the Household” (Madame D’Arblay is again my authority). She was able to have her own visitors, for one of her cousins often stayed with her for weeks together,and a solitary relic remains of these days in the shape of a small terrestrial globe in a shagreen case on which the Princes learned their earliest geography, and which was probably given by her to this same cousin.
All Mrs. Cotesworth’s more valuable possessions, such as plate, jewelry, etc., were doubtless swallowed up by a lawsuit on which she entered in later years, for at the time of her death her plate was in pawn, and she had nothing but the allowance she received from the Queen.
This lawsuit is connected with a singular story.
A little boy, Frederick William Blomberg, came under her care and, owing to her exertions on his behalf, was brought up with the Royal children.
In the journals of Thomas Sedgewick Whalley, D.D. , by Whickham, a very erroneous account is given of the appearance of this boy’s father after death to a brother officer. The following letter, written at Queen Charlotte’s request by Lieutenant Stewart (the original of which is in the possession of Captain Newbury, late Lincoln Regiment, a descendant of young Blomberg’s wife’s relations), is a true narrative of the case:
When Sir William was Governor in this Island, I was a lieutenant in the regiment. A gentleman of the name of Blomberg was a subaltern in the same corps with myself: he was of German extraction and had married Miss Laing, by whom he had one child and doated on him. Mrs. B., soon after the birth of the child, died. My friend, who was a man of uncommon sensibility, mourned the death of his amiable wife sincerely, and when this boy, the living object of his care, reached his second year, Mr. Blomberg was ordered to this Island, and unwilling to leave the pledge of his Caroline’s love to the care of strangers, he hired a nurse and resolved he should accompany him. My friend doated on this child, his whole happiness was hearing his little prattle, and he was never happy but when the little Frederick was with him, if you rode out you were certain of seeing his little blooming boy seated before him: in short, he existed in the innocent smiles of his child.
About nine months after he had been stationed here, business carried him to the windward of the Island; at this time the Government house happened to be exceedingly full, for Barracks not yet being built, most of the officers were obliged to take up their abode in the house where two beds were placed in each room. A few nights after Mr. Blomberg had been absent, I had not been in bed a quarter of an hour, before I heard a person enter and advance to my bed and undraw my curtain. I found it was Blomberg and enquired when he arrived, in reply he informed me he died that very night and then, in most pathetic words recommended his son to my protection and departed. Struck with astonishment I rubb’d my eyes, and would have persuaded myself it was a vision or a dream, but calling to Mr., a gentleman who slept in the same room, I enquired of him if he heard anyone enter, he replied, ‘Yes, I thought it was Blomberg, what brought him at so late an hour?’ ‘Did you hear him speak?’ he replied that he did but could not distinguish what he said. I then related the particulars and the next morning I mentioned the circumstances at the Breakfast table, when I was most severely Banter’d.
However, in the Evening, news arrived of my poor friend’s death who had fallen by a Billious Fever which attack’d him on the very day of his arrival at that place. This confirmed what I have before related, I instantly took the little orphan under my own protection, and looking into my friend’s papers I found forty pounds, and traced by some letters that the mother and sister of Mr. Blomberg were living in a street, Hanover Square, I found likewise that altho’ they were people of family, they were in indifferent circumstances and received a pension of 50 a year from Her Majesty, I considered it however necessary to inform them of this event, but determined in case no person should have pity on his youth, never to abandon him, altho’ a Lieut.’s pay was too trifling to mention, it was all the fortune I could boast, and resolved he should partake of my scanty pittance.
I embark’d the child and the nurse for England and gave the Woman a letter to the Grandmother, in which I communicated the above particulars, with orders to take him to her residence, but strange to tell both the Grandmother and Aunt refused to receive him, however they related the circumstances to a person of fashion who was distantly related to them, who thought the story so extraordinary that she mentioned it to the Queen. Her Majesty pitied the helpless Babe, desired to see him and nobly had him received and educated under her own roof, the Queen submitted him to the care of Mrs. Coatsworth Sub governess to the Royal children, who became much attached to the child and in every respect treated him with the tenderness of a mother, some years after a Gentleman of the House of Blomberg died, leaving an estate of between £1500 or £2000. No heirs appeared and the lady had the goodness to stand the friend of young Frederick, who was found to be connected with the family of the Deceased.”
Besides this letter, a narrative exists which was probably drawn up by Lady Charlotte Finch and Mrs. Cotesworth. It is signed by both of them, and shows that the latter lady was really instrumental in bringing the child before the Queen’s notice. She was doubtless the “person of fashion” alluded to, although Mr. Stewart is wrong in supposing that there was a relationship between her and young Blomberg. Apparently she heard by chance of the child who was suffering greatly from the cold being “on Board a ship in Harbour at Christmas,” and his story struck her as so “peculiarly touching and Cruel” that she never rested until she obtained permission to take him under her care.
To judge by a full-length portrait of young Blomberg, by Gainsborough, now in the possession of Captain Newbury, he must have been a beautiful boy. Mrs. Cotesworth adopted him, and when, owing to ill health, she left the Palace and lived in Dover Street, he went with her. He was then about thirteen years’ old. It was after this that the lawsuit began which impoverished her, and the worry of which probably indirectly caused her death. She entered upon it to prove that her adopted son had a right to a certain property Kirby Misperton, in Yorkshire and before she died had the satisfaction of knowing that she had won her case. At the time of her death, in 1781, young Blomberg was in his twenty-first year, and Queen Charlotte, who apparently had a genuine affection for her children’s governess and often visited her in Dover Street, and in Queen Anne Street where she moved later, caused the sum of £300 a year, which she had continued to allow her, to be given to him. He went to college, took Holy Orders, was made Chaplain of the Household by George IV, and finally became rector of St. Giles, Cripplegate. King George sent him the Gainsborough, and a portrait of Mrs. Cotesworth by Angelica Kaufmann.
Undoubtedly Mrs. Cotesworth was beloved by her pupils, for William IV, shortly before he died, went to visit her grave in the old churchyard at Kew a touching instance of loyalty to early memories in the kindly sailor King.
Many years after her death when, as Duke of Clarence, he visited H.M.S. Herald at Plymouth, in which ship William Cotesworth (great grandson of Henrietta’s guardian) was lieutenant, he at once enquired whether he was related to Mrs. Cotesworth, speaking of her in the familiar, jovial way common to him as “Old Coatie.”
The key elements remain the same. Though of course in the above account Blomberg was of a lower rank and appeared to a Lieutenant, though still at the residence of the Governor. There was also no unknown information passed on by the ghost.
Another version of the story appears in ‘Personal Reminiscences by Barham, Harness and Hodder’ (1875) edited by Richard Henry Stoddard, in which the the experience took place in a tent..
The name of Dr. Blomberg is well known in connection with the celebrated ghost story so frequently narrated by George IV. As several versions of this strange occurrence are in existence, it may be worth noting while to give the one which Mr. Barham heard at the doctor’s own table, either on the occasion when the foregoing anecdotes were told, or a few days later.
“During the American War, two officers of rank were seated in their tent, and delayed taking supper till a brother officer, then absent upon a foraging party, should return. Their patience was well-nigh exhausted, and they were about to commence their meal, concluding something had occurred to detain the party, when suddenly his well-known footstep was heard approaching. Contrary to their expectation, however, he paused at the entrance of the tent, and without coming in called on one of them by name, requesting him with much earnestness, as soon as he should return to England, to proceed to a house in a particular street in Westminster, in a room of which (describing it) he would find certain papers of great consequence to a young lad with whom the speaker was nearly connected. The speaker then apparently turned away, and his footsteps were distinctly heard retiring till their sound was lost in the distance. Struck with the singularity of his behavior, they both rose, and proceeded in search of him. A neighboring sentinel on being questioned denied that he had either seen or heard any one, although, as they believed, their friend must have passed close by his post. In a few minutes their bewilderment was changed into a more painful feeling by the approach of the visiting officer of the night, who informed them that the party which went out in the morning had been surprised, and that the dead body of poor Major Blomberg (their friend) had been brought into the camp about ten minutes before. The two friends retired in silence, and sought the corpse of the person who, as both were fully persuaded, had just addressed them. They found him pierced by three bullets, one of which had passed through his temples and must have occasioned instant death. He was quite cold, and appeared to have been dead some hours. It may easily be conceived that a memorandum was immediately made of the request they had both so distinctly heard, and of the circumstances attending it, and that on the return of the regiment to Europe, no time was lost in searching for the papers. The house was found without difficulty, and in an upper room, agreeably with the information they had received in such an extraordinary manner, an old box was discovered, which had remained there many years, containing the title-deeds of some property now in the posession of the Rev. Dr. Blomberg, who was the ‘lad’ mentioned by name by the voice at the tent door.
“This story,” adds Mr. Barham, “was repeated to me by Mr. Atwood, the King’s organist, at Dr. Blomberg’s own table in his temporary absence. Mr. Atwood declared that he had heard the story related by George IV, (whose foster-brother Dr. Blomberg was) more than once, and on one occasion when the doctor himself was present. He further stated that the King had mentioned the names of all the parties concerned, but that, with the exceptions of Major Blomberg’s, they had escaped his memory.”