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The Scandal that ended Governor Eardley- Wilmot's career

Hobart Town chain gang'. Charles Bruce c.1831

Located close to one of the pathway intersections in Brockley cemetery lies an imposing cruciform headstone. Although some of the lettering has disappeared the uxorious epitaph speaks of the sudden loss of a beloved wife - Louisa Charlotte Mackenzie Wright who died in Deptford in April 1870 at the young age of 33 years. Born in Kent in 1836, the daughter of the Rev.Richard Wright and Charlotte Lewis Wilson, she was married in 1868 to Vice-Admiral Arthur Parry Eardley-Wilmot. The couple had one daughter, Flora who died in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1907.

The headstone of Louisa Charlotte Wright is located in Brockley cemetery (Photo by Author)

Arthur Parry Eardley-Wilmot, was born in 1815, at Berkswell Hall. Warwickshire, fourth son of Sir John Eardley Eardley-Wilmot MP for Warwickshire and Governor of Van Diemen's Land, by his first wife Elizabeth Emma. His distinguished naval career is captured in the entry attached which is drawn from the British Naval Biographical Dictionary (1849). He was present at the Siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War and on retirement became an Aide de camp to Queen Victoria, 1866-1870 and Superintendent of Deptford Dockyard, 1871. He retired on a Greenwich Hospital pension and died at Torquay, Devon in 1886.

Sir John Eardley Eardley Wilmot, (undated) image in the public domain

John Eardley Wilmot was born in 1783. Educated at Harrow, he served as Member of Parliament (MP) for North Warwickshire and then as Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land (which became Tasmania in 1856). A local magistrate, he most likely owed his position as Governor (in which he succeeded the famed Arctic explorer  Sir John Franklin *) to the dedicated interest he had taken in the subject of crime and rehabilitation; his plea that prisoners under the age of 21 should be segregated and a special effort made to reform them suggests that he were ideas in advance of this period.

In April 1846 Wilmot was recalled as Governor of Van Diemen's Land. The official statements relating to his recall were of the vaguest character, such as that he had not shown "an active care of the moral interests involved in the system of convict discipline". Privately Gladstone, the new colonial secretary, informed Wilmot that he was not recalled for any errors in his official character, but because rumours reflecting on his moral character had reached the colonial office. There was no truth in these charges nor was there time for Wilmot to receive any reply to his indignant denials, and requests for the names of his accusers. He died aged 64 years on 3 February 1847, worn-down by worry and anxiety. Gladstone endeavoured to make partial amends in a letter to one of Wilmot's sons.

Wilmot features as a main character in T.S.Flynn's historical novel "Part an Irishman: The Regiment.

Sir John Eardley-Wilmot commemoration : Monument Australia

The last resting place of Sir John Eardley -Wilmot in Hobart Town , Tasmania. His final request to be buried in England having been ignored!

The monument commemorates Sir John Eardley-Wilmot, Lieutenant-Governor of Tasmania who was stood down after unsubstantiated rumours of improper behaviour. He died of an undiagnosed illness while trying to clear his name. His remains were exhumed and placed underneath the memorial. The colonial press discussed the episode of his dismissal and feeling for Wilmot gathered weight. The Colonial Times, of 9 February 1847, even declared him `murdered`. Citizens of Hobart subscribed to a Gothic mausoleum for Wilmot which was erected in 1850.

For readers interested in an fuller historical account of the Sir John's life and work. Leonie C. Mickleborough's 2011 doctoral thesis entitled ' Victim Of An Extraordinary Conspiracy' Sir John Eardley Eardley -Wilmot, Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land 1843-1846 has a lively narrative that is well worth perusing.

To readers who might opt to circumvent this cerebral challenge - a spoiler alert now unfolds , Leonie's concluding paragraph notes the following :

* Louisa's brother , Lt. Arthur Richard Wright was on the 1854 Arctic expedition in the search for Sir John Franklin's ill -fated voyage to the North West Passage.

A fuller genealogical overview of her remarkable families background is available on Ancestry UK.