ALBERTINA HERBERT – TWO LIFE-BY-DATE SEQUENCES. Her life; and in the occult world mid-1880s to 1909
1 = LIFE
Albertina Herbert’s diary for 1889 to 1895, now in the National Library of Wales as catalogue number NLW18744B, is the only one I know of which was written by a GD member during the time they were a member. Below is a life-by-dates as a context for her; starting with events that took place before she was born but which hugely influenced her life.
A word on Sources, which I’ve done in italics. Most of the information below can be found by trawling through wikipedia pages, either those of individuals or those of various peerages and particular events. Some information on marriages and offspring can be found at www.thepeerage.com, the online descendant of Burke’s Peerage. I only give below the other sources I’ve used.
2 August 1849
Albertina’s great-uncle William Joseph Denison died, leaving his banking fortune to his favourite nephew, Albertina’s father Lord Albert Conyngham, on condition that he change his surname to Denison.
As at November 2022, I’m still looking for the official announcement of the change of surname. Times Friday 7 September 1849 p2 said that Lord Albert had been left about £2 million in his uncle’s Will. The website measuringworth.com ‘real wealth as purchasing power’ option equates that sum to £220,700,000 in 2022 prices.
Queen Victoria gave Albert a peerage, the barony of Londesborough in the East Riding.
Source: Times Sat 2 March 1850 p4.
15 July 1851
Birth of Ivor John Caradoc Herbert, eldest son of John and Augusta Herbert of Llanarth Court near Abergavenny. John Herbert’s family were Catholics; Augusta had converted to Catholicism when she married. Augusta was the heiress of Baron and Baroness Llanover of Llanover House, across the River Usk from Llanarth Court. Both families strongly identified with the Welsh language and culture.
22 September 1854
Albertina Agnes Mary Denison was born at Grimston Park in Yorkshire; youngest daughter of Albert Lord Londesborough and his second wife Ursula, a grand-daughter of the first Earl of Bradford.
Source for the actual day, which I didn’t find In any of the usual sources: Albertina’s diary NLW18744B now at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth; entry for 22 September 1889.
15 January 1860
Albertina’s father, Lord Londesborough, died.
14 December 1861
Albertina’s mother married Lord Otho Fitzgerald, youngest son of the 3rd Duke of Leinster. He was controller of Queen Victoria’s household from 1868 to 1874. Ursula’s correct title as his wife was Lady Otho Fitzgerald.
5 November 1870
Ivor Herbert joined the Grenadier Guards, as a Lieutenant. Future GD member Henry Edward Colvile had joined the same regiment the month before.
Source for Ivor and Henry Edward Colvile: Army Lists 1889, 1890.
29 February 1872
Albertina Denison was presented to Queen Victoria; the first stage in her first social season ‘coming out’.
Source: Morning Post 1 March 1872; Times 1 March 1872 p9 Court Circular.
31 July 1873
Albertina married Ivor Herbert at St Martin in the Fields in London.
Source: Morning Post Fri 1 August 1873 p5. Because Ivor’s family refused to attend, for reasons I won’t go into here, the wedding also got a lot of coverage in the local press.
January 1874 to December 1877
Albertina kept a diary; rather intermittently – there are no entries for 1875 or 1876,
Source: NLW18743B now at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.
6 February 1879
Albertina and Ivor’s daughter Florence Mary Ursula Herbert was born, at Baroness Llanover’s London home, 9 Great Stanhope Street Mayfair. Though registered as ‘florence’ she always used the Welsh spelling of her name – Fflorens.
9 February 1881
Albertina and Ivor’s son Elidyr John Bernard Herbert was born. Ivor was stationed at Aldershot at that time and the Herberts were living at Harcourt House, Frimley Road Camberley. Both Albertina’s children were brought up as Catholics.
Sources for the dates of birth: Mander genealogy, seen online at //owlpen.com/family/mander-genealogy. It’s the Hall family of Llanover who are in it. Two daughters of Samuel Small Mander were in the GD: Mary Jane, who was Robert William Felkin’s first wife; and her sister Jemima Tertia.
Ivor was with the Egypt Campaign; including the desert march to Metemmeh.
Source: Times Mon 4 June 1917 p9.
19 November 1882
Albertina’s step-father, Lord Otho Fitzgerald, died.
Source: Morning Post 20 November 1882 p5.
11 November 1883
Albertina’s mother Ursula, Lady Otho Fitzgerald, died in Paris.
Source: Morning Post 17 November 1883 p5.
September 1884-spring 1885
Sudan Campaign, the failed attempt to rescue General Gordon, besieged at Khartoum. Ivor Herbert was in Egypt and Sudan with the Camel Corps.
Sources. Army List 1889. That he was in the Camel Corps: Dod’s Parliamentary Companion volume 79 1911 p299. Henry Edward Colvile was commissioned to write the official history of the campaign.
Ivor Herbert was military attaché to the Imperial Court at St Petersburg. The War Office budget for the job couldn’t cover Albertina going with Ivor, so she stayed in England.
Source for Ivor: Army List 1889; for Albertina left stranded in England – NLW18744B. On the lack of War Office funds: Russia in the Eighties: Sport and Politics by John Frederick Baddeley. London: Longmans Green and Co 1921; p228 et seq showing Ivor living on a tight budget.
By August 1888
Probably during 1886: Ivor and Albertina moved into 10 William Street as their London house.
Source: Times 23 August 1888.
By June 1889
Albertina was living at 8 Herbert Crescent, just behind Harrods.
1 June 1889
Albertina wrote her first entry in Diary NLW18744B which covers 1889 to 1895. She had returned to Herbert Crescent after a visit to her in-laws at Llanarth Court.
Source: NLW 18744B. Across the top of each page Albertina noted where she was when she wrote the entries.
20 September 1889
“Miss Bergson’s studio 17 Fitzroy Street” – Albertina was initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn; probably in the same ritual as her great friend Violet Chambers (better known by her married name, Tweedale).
Source: NLW 18744B entry for 20 September 1889. NB however, that Albertina didn’t mention that Violet was with her – that’s a speculation of mine based on Violet’s GD initiation date.
29 September 1890
Ivor Herbert accepted the offer of commander-in-chief of the imperial forces in Canada. Earnscliffe, a house in Ottawa, went with the job; so Albertina was able to go with him to Canada.
Sources: Morning Post, London Daily News and Pall Mall Gazette 29 September 1890. Canada Gazette 5 December 1890 announcing Ivor’s first day at work.
24 October 1890
Both Albertina and Ivor joined the Theosophical Society.
Source: Theosophical Society Membership Register January 1889-September 1891 p42. Annotated to indicate which lodge: Blavatsky; then London.
I haven’t found any indication that Ivor was an active TS member but Albertina definitely was: and tried her best to study and understand the rather challenging theories that underpinned theosophy. Diaries NLW18744B, and NLW18745B which covers 1896 to early 1898, are festooned with theosophical jottings: an annotated cosmic egg; some notes on the descent of the human and pre-human races; articles on theosophy cut from magazines including half an obituary of William Quan Judge; and poetry on theosophical themes. On her return to England Albertina began going to lodge meetings again and sponsored the memberships of two of her relations.
20/21 November 1890
Ivor, Albertina, Fflorens and Elidyr Herbert sailed from Liverpool for Halifax Nova Scotia.
Source: NLW18744B entry for 20 November 1890.
Albertina was with Ivor in Canada. They lived in Ottawa but also made several trips within North America:
September 1891 Across Canada to Vancouver BC.
November 1891 To New York.
July-September 1892 To British Columbia again and by ship to Alaska.
September 1892 To Chicago to see the coming world’s fair under construction.
April 1893 Another trip to New York.
June 1893 To Chicago again to the World’s Columbian Exposition.
21 June 1895
Ivor and Albertina left Ottawa on their way back to England.
Source: NLW18744B entry for 21 June 1895, the last entry in that diary.
18 August 1895
Ivor’s father, John Arthur Herbert, died; and Ivor inherited Llanarth Court.
Sources: Abergavenny Chronicle 23 August 1895 and 14 February 1896.
20 September 1895 Ivor Herbert’s last official day in charge of the imperial forces in Canada.
17 January 1896
Ivor’s grand-mother, Augusta Hall, Baroness Llanover, died. She left a complicated Will in which her daughter Augusta Herbert became tenant-for-life of the Llanover estates; with Ivor and Albertina’s daughter Fflorens Herbert as next tenant-for-life, to take possession on Augusta’s death.
Source: probate and Will plus two codicils of Augusta Hall, Baroness Llanover.
April 1896 to January 1898
Albertina kept a diary again, the last one to survive, perhaps the last one she wrote. It ended just before Fflorens Herbert’s debut season began with a series of notes on consultations with clairvoyants.
Ivor Herbert was commander of the 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards.
Source: Visitation of England and Wales volume 12 1904 p32 which refers to volume 3 p122.
Ivor Herbert was in daily charge of the colonial forces at Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee.
Sources: Times 18 June 1897 p12 though making it clear that Field-Marshall Lord Roberts was the most senior military officer – Ivor rode immediately behind him. Times 17 June 1897 p8; 19 June 1897 p12; 28 June 1897 p11 and p17.
25 February 1898
Albertina’s daughter Fflorens Herbert was presented at Court, to begin her ‘coming out’ season.
Source: Times 26 February 1898 p14 Court Circular.
Albertina’s son Elidyr Herbert became only the second member of the Catholic Herbert family to go to university in England. He was the first to go to Cambridge: King’s College. He graduated in 1902.
Source: Alumni Cantabrigiensis seen online so no volume number but p337 in that volume.
Ivor Herbert was Assistant Adjutant-General to the South African Field Force.
Sources: Times 4 December 1899 p5; 16 January 1900 p3. Times Mon 4 June 1917 p9.
Ivor Herbert retired from active service in the army.
Source: Visitation of England and Wales volume 12 1904 p32 which refers to volume 3 p122.
Albertina’s son Elidyr Herbert became the first member of the Herbert or the Denison families to qualify as a barrister; he was a member of the Inner Temple.
Source: Alumni Cantabrigiensis seen online so no volume number but p337 in that volume.
1906 to June 1917
Ivor was Liberal MP for South Monmouthshire.
Source for the first time he was elected: Times Mon 19 February 1906 p3.
Ivor Herbert was made a baronet.
Source: London Gazette 16 July 1907 p4858. And Times 28 June 1907 p9: King’s Birthday Honours.
5 January 1909
Albertina and Ivor formally resigned from the Theosophical Society.
Source: Theosophical Society Membership Register January 1889-September 1891 p42. Annotated “resigned 5 Jan 1909”.
Albertina and Ivor’s London address was Lennox House, Ovington Square.
Source: Times 23 February 1911 p4 reporting a criminal case after the Herberts had been burgled.
20 April 1911
Albertina’s daughter Fflorens married Walter Roch, Liberal MP for Pembrokeshire.
Source: Times 21 April 1911 p9b. Abergavenny Chronicle Friday 22 April 1911 with full list of guests and of gifts and who gave them. Amongst the gift-givers were three women who had been in the GD – Violet Tweedale, who joined when Albertina did; and Gabrielle Borthwick and Florence Kennedy who joined while Albertina was in Canada. Florencce Kennedy had since been widowed, had married again and was now Florence Gennadius.
3 November 1912
Ivor’s mother Augusta Charlotte Elizabeth Herbert died. Fflorens Roch became tenant for life of the Llanover estates. Ivor and Albertina took Baroness Llanover’s house at 9 Great Stanhope Street
Mayfair as their London home.
Source for the date of death: probate registry entry.
Elidyr Herbert joined the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, a volunteer regiment.
Source: www.remembering.org.uk entries for the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars. Also www.walesonline.org. And Abergavenny Chronicle 23 November 1917.
Elidyr Herbert joined the army as a volunteer.
Elidyr served at Gallipoli; in Serbia; in Egypt; then joined the Machine Gun Corps for the Palestine campaign.
Sources for where Elidyr was on active service during World War 1: Abergavenny Chronicle 23 November 1917.
Ivor Herbert got his own peerage, being created Baron Treowen.
Source: Times Mon 4 June 1917 p9: Birthday Honours.
12 November 1917
Elidyr Herbert was killed, or died of wounds, during the attack on Jerusalem.
Source: Abergavenny Chronicle 16 November 1917; 23 November 1917 announcing that he was listed as missing, with all-but-obituary; and 30 November 1917 confirming that he was dead.
Ivor and Albertina built a model village on the Llanover Estate, Tre Elidyr, in memory of their son.
Albertina developed neuritis.
Albertina’s illness confined her to her bed.
Albertina converted to Roman Catholicism.
20 October 1929
Source for the last three: Abergavenny Chronicle 25 October 1929 and 1 November 1929; and Times 22 October 1929 p18c.
18 October 1933 Ivor Herbert, Baron Treowen died.
2 = Albertina Herbert’s LIFE in the occult world, England and Canada, ?1884 to 1909
I haven’t included the sources for this life-by-dates. They are all in the relevant files.
Albertina knew future GD member Henry Edward Colville as an officer in her husband’s regiment. By 1889 she also knew Colvile’s wife Isabelle.
Official founding of the Hermetic Society. Albertina may have been a member.
Mathers, and William Wynn Westcott, attended meetings of the Hermetic Society.
10 June 1889
Albertina went to see Samuel Mathers and accepted an invitation to join the Order of the Golden Dawn.
Wed 17 July 1889
Isabel Cooper Oakley was one of Albertina’s dinner guests.
Mon 22 July 1889
Albertina went to a reading with fortune teller Lottie Fowler; Edith, Mrs Nicholas Wood went with Albertina to introduce her. Albertina and Isabel Cooper Oakley were guests at the same dinner
party. Albertina didn’t name the hostess.
August-mid-September 1889 Albertina was not in London.
20 September 1889
Albertina was initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn at Mina Bergson’s studio. Mathers was probably present. And Violet Chambers may also have been initiated that evening.
Wed 25 September 1889
Albertina went to the offices of herbalist and mesmerist David Younger, at 20 New Oxford Street.
Sun 29 September 1889
Albertina had her hand read by a fellow guest at her sister’scountry estate. The palmist was probably Anna Lovice van Rensselaer.
Albertina became acquainted with Mina Bergson’s friend, GD member Theresa O’Connell.
Mon 28 October 1889
Isabel Cooper Oakley and Violet Chambers came to dinner.
Sat 2 November 1889
Tea with Theodosia, Countess of Cottenham to meet the spiritualist medium Elizabeth Wilkinson.
Sat 9 November 1889
3pm. Appointment for a ?session ?reading ?séance with Elizabeth Wilkinson.
Wed 1 January 1890
Albertina met Elizabeth Wilkinson, apparently by accident, at Violet Chambers’ rooms in Hill Street.
2 January-March 1890
Albertina was in the south of France.
Fri 18 March 1890
Isabel Cooper Oakley was Albertina’s dinner guest.
12 April 1890
Albertina tried – and apparently failed – to have a meeting with Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.
Fri 17 October 1890
Last meeting with Samuel Mathers.
24 October 1890
Albertina and her husband Ivor joined the Theosophical Society. Isabel Cooper Oakley and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky sponsored their membership. The Herberts resigned from the TS British Section in January 1909.
The first TS lodge in Canada was founded in Toronto.
5 March 1891
Albertina a consultation probably by post with an unknown fortune teller possibly resident in Toronto.
Albertina was reading books and articles on theosophy; and making notes.
Albertina was reading the spiritualist digest Borderland.
The Herberts return to England.
Albertina met GD members Gabrielle Borthwick and Florence Kennedy, later Gennadius; probably through the TS not the GD
Albertina continued her theosophical studies; and makes notes.
27 February 1896
Albertina drew an annotated picture of an Auric egg in her diary.
23 March 1896
An obituary of William Quan Judge (died 21 March 1896) appeared in the New York Journal. Albertina pasted part of it into her diary.
Albertina was reading Lucifer/Theosophical Review and Modern Astrology.
Albertina bought a copy of John Melville’s Crystal Gazing and Clairvoyance and made notes on interpretation.
Albertina sponsored the TS membership of ex-GD member Theresa O’Connell.
6 December 1897 and 21 January 1898
Albertina had two sessions with an unknown fortune teller who was living at 53 Margaret Street.
Sat 29 January 1898
Albertina went to 114 Warwick Street Eccleston Square for a reading with Inie Edwards. Last entry in diary NLW18745B.
5 January 1909
Albertina and Ivor Herbert resigned from the Theosophical Society.
THE DIARIES NLW18744B and NLW18745B: rather self-indulgent section discussing what I found out about Albertina’s life from them.
Entry for 22 September 1890: “My 36th birthday alas – sorry to be so old…” NLW18744B
I had such high hopes for the only diary I knew of that was written by a GD member during the time they were active in the Order! - but alas, NLW18744B is not a magical diary. It’s not even like Albertina’s earlier attempt at diary-keeping, NLW18743B covering parts of 1873 to 1877 – a chatty account of her daily life. You could call NLW18744B an appointments diary, except that Albertina wrote the entries in it after she had kept the appointments, not before. It’s just a record of where she went, and who she saw, on any particular day; with the occasional comment – short and mostly negative – on what had happened. So why did she write it at all?
Albertina Herbert was an aristocrat and had married into a family with landed and industrial interests. She had a life of leisured ease, running a large household and using social engagements to make and keep the contacts that would continue her social class’s pre-eminence. She had an eye for the latest fashions and the money to indulge a penchant for Brussels lace and diamonds. She was meant to be satisfied; but she wasn’t.
As an officer in Queen Victoria’s armed forces, Albertina’s husband Ivor had spent a lot of the past six years away from home. During the first 15 months of NLW118744B he was in Russia; he came back when he could but could never stay long. Albertina’s children weren’t with her either, at least for the first five months. The first mention of them in the diary is from October 1889 – a rather terse “Children from Scarborough”. For most of the first year of diary NLW18744B Albertina was living on her own; apart from the servants, of course.
I daresay Albertina told herself that being left in England on her own was part of the job of army wife; and as a 19th century aristocrat she would never have expected her children to bridge the gap created by her husband’s absence. However, the diary entries show that her trouble went further than that. When she made her first entry into NLW18744B, on 1 June 1889, it was with a sense of not being able to account for her life, even to herself – where was the time going? And how exactly was she spending it? To which the answer too often was: at entertainments she would later dismiss as “deadly”; or sitting in drawing-rooms being “infernally bored”.
Albertina was not brave enough to batter down the conventions that restricted her life; nor even to do much in the way of leaning on them so they gave her a bit more room to move. However, during the time she was writing diary NLW18744B she did face up to the issues at the bottom of it all: despite all her privileges, she felt powerless and directionless. What was going to happen to her? And if there was a bigger picture, where – if at all – did she fit into it?
A search for answers sent Albertina to a number of psychics and an alternative healer, to spiritualist mediums; and to theosophy and the magical Order of the Golden Dawn.
Sources for my section on ‘why the diary’. Essentially – entries in NLW 18744B. The quoted entries.
Thursday 6 June 1889...Deadly ball at Mrs Alexander.
Monday 1 July 1889...Dined the Henry Denisons and much bored.
Sunday 28 July 1889...Dined Mrs Hogg (sic, it’s actually spelled Hogge) where I was infernally bored.
Thursday 17 October 1889 – children from Scarborough.
I haven’t been able to identify the Mrs Alexander whose ball Albertina found so dull and I’m sure Albertina was far too well brought up to tell her hostess what she thought. However, writing in her private journal she spared no one. The Henry Denisons were her brother Henry and his wife Beatrice née Thomson, previously Gough; and Helen Hogge, née Magniac, was the mother of Edith Ames-Lyde, one of Albertina’s handful of close friends.
The fashions and the diamonds:
Canadian newspaper The Metropolitan 9 April 1898 p12 had a report on Fflorens Herbert’s Court presentation, describing her as “the charming little girl so well known in Ottawa”, though now grown up. The report reminded its readers that Albertina was “always in the van of the latest mode”. At her daughter’s presentation she had worn orchid mauve satin and yellow brocade: the mauve satin was in the petticoat which was decorated with flounces of Brussels lace; the dress had a train from the shoulder in yellow and gold brocade lined with white satin and with a border of yellow chiffon. “Mrs Herbert’s diamonds were many and valuable”.
MY WORK ON DIARY NLW18744B, which had to be re-thought when I discovered it wasn’t a magical diary.
In the end I got the National Library of Wales’ permission to transcribe the entries between 1 June 1889 and December 1890 when the Herbert family went to Canada. Handicapped by Albertina’s hand-writing – which was really wild at times, especially near the end of the notebook – I set out to identify as many of the people she mentioned as I could; with a view to reconstructing the social world she was moving in, in 1889 and 1890. While I was doing that, I found a long article in the Abergavenny Chronicle on Fflorens Herbert’s wedding to Walter Roch MP. It included a full list of all Fflorens’ wedding presents and who had given them. During the first covid-19 lockdown I set out to identify as many of them as I could; to reconstruct the Herberts’ social life around 1911; and compare the two sets of people.
15 years or so separated the two groups of people and by 1911 Albertina’s life had changed a great deal. The biggest changes had both come to her through Ivor: he had inherited his father’s estates; and he had gone into (Liberal) politics. Albertina’s base was now Monmouthshire; where before it had been London. Even so, I was surprised and puzzled by how few people from 1889/1890 Albertina was still in touch with in 1911. Some had died, of course; or left the country. But I’ve come to the conclusion that much of Albertina’s socialising in 1889 was based on the particular circumstances of her life then: a kind-of army widow with no landed estate and country house to be the mistress of.
WHO’S IN THE DIARY?
Who were these people that Albertina socialised with in 1889 and 1890? The short answer is: nobody you will have heard of!
On 26 June 1889, after dinner with a woman she called Poppy, who I think is her younger half-sister Ina Paget, Albertina went to 148 Piccadilly for an evening at Lady Rothschild’s (that’s Emma Louise, wife of Nathan Meyer, Baron de Rothschild). And that’s it for famous – or even infamous – names. Everyone else that Albertina visited, called on, had lunch with or dined with is not a well-known figure today; and most were not well-known in their own time, howevermuch they may have thought of themselves as the empire’s elite.
In 1889/1890, Albertina knew hardly anyone with connections, however tenuous, with industry or trade. (It was very different in 1911). She did have some acquantances in the City of London; in banking and stock-broking. However, in general Albertina’s acquaintances fell into two groups. There were the land owners and children of land owners; with a preponderance of people originally from the north Midlands, where her mother’s family, the Bridgemans, came from. And there were the men in the army, who were as much Ivor’s connections as Albertina’s, as virtually all of them were in his regiment, the Grenadier Guards. Of course, the two groups overlapped hugely in an intricate – almost three-dimensional – web of intermarriage and clientage. The Herberts – Ivor’s family – stood rather outside the three-dimensional web; for the simple reason that they were and always had been Catholics.
Source for going to Lady Rothchild’s:
NLW18744B: Wed 26 June . F.O. about Ivor. Poppy dinner. Lady de Rothschild.
Copyright SALLY DAVIS
14 November 2022
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