A Curraghmore Love Story
During its six centuries of history, Curraghmore has known many intriguing stories and romances.. however, none are remembered as vividly as the story of Henry, the 3rd Marquis of Waterford and Louisa Anne Stuart – A true Curraghmore Love story.
Louisa Anne Stuart was born in Paris on 14 April 1818, the younger daughter of the British Ambassador Sir Charles Stuart. In 1839, Louisa was twenty-one and much sought after by eligible suitors, but she was apparently indifferent to them all.
In that year she and her mother attended the Eglinton Tournament, an extravagant mock-medieval re-enactment at a castle in Scotland. Courtiers walked in procession, knights with romantic titles jousted, and there was feasting and dancing.
Louisa was a stunning social success. She also won the heart of “The Knight of the Dragon”, Henry de la Poer Beresford, 3rd Marquis of Waterford (the dragon was the Beresford crest).
In 1842 the Marquis asked his elder sister Sarah, Viscountess Ingestre, to write to Lady Stuart on his behalf with a proposal of marriage – and Louisa accepted.
Her family were horrified. Henry Waterford had been born in 1811 (seven years before Louisa), orphaned at fifteen, and educated at Eton. He was a dedicated horseman and kept many horses in his various stables. He was also a rough, aristocratic tearaway, renowned for his wild pranks, which were gleefully reported in the newspapers. Famously, he and his drunken friends, when returning to Melton Mowbray after a race meeting, assaulted the toll keeper, daubed red paint on his cottage, and went on to literally “paint the town red”.
The match between him and Louisa seemed doomed to fail – and yet they instantly became – and remained – a devoted couple. Their marriage “represented an archetype of the chivalric ideal” embodied in the Eglinton Tournament: the reform of an irresponsible reprobate achieved through the love of a beautiful lady.
And thus Louisa came to Curraghmore, where she was received with rapturous enthusiasm by the staff and tenantry. Together, Henry and Louisa formed a dynamic couple, investing time and effort into reforming Curraghmore Estate. During the famine of 1845, they established soup kitchens for the starving. They built proper housing for the estate’s 600 workers and their families. A woollen mill was built at Kilmacthomas and a clothing club was established in which they could be given clothes in return for a subscription of a penny a week. A school for the estate children was set up in one of the courtyard buildings – one of the first primary schools in the country.
Then, on 29 March 1859, Henry Waterford was killed in a freak hunting accident. The title and estate passed to his brother John, who now came to Curraghmore with his wife Christiana (“Tina”), née Leslie, and their sons. In his will Henry had bequeathed to Louisa the property the Beresfords had inherited in Northumberland, consisting of Ford Castle and an estate of 7,000 acres. That summer she left Curraghmore, never to return.
For the remaining 32 years of her eventful life, Louisa remained devoted to the memory of her husband. She commissioned the London-based Italian sculptor Carlo Marochetti to carve a bust of Henry, which she kept beside her bed at Ford (it’s now in the Dining Room at Curraghmore); she wrote to her friend Mrs Osborne: “I think it excellent, though the more like it is, the more one misses the life of the real face.”