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elizabeth Macquarie portrait

Elizabeth Henrietta MACQUARIE of Airds (1778-1835)

1778-1804 | 1805-1807 | 1808-1824 | 1825-1835 |

Second wife of Lachlan Macquarie.
Elizabeth Henrietta Campbell of Airds was born 13 June 1778. She was the daughter of John Campbell (1737-1788), 5th. of Airds, and Jane Campbell (c.1737-c.1800) of Stonefield. They had five (5) children: John (1767-1834); Margaret (c.1764-1845); Jane (1765-1824); Grace (1776-1783); and Elizabeth Henrietta (1778-1835).

Early Years (1778-1804):
Elizabeth's earliest years were spent at school in Hammersmith, London, and apart from holidays with her nieces in Edinburgh, visits with her aunt, Mrs. Campbell of Cowhin, in London, her only other known friendships were with her schoolday friends Miss Jane Stewart (of Albermarle St. London) and Miss Henrietta Meredith (of Upper Charlotte St., near Portland Place, London). But these were years spent largely in waiting - in deferral to paternal authority and familial obedience. As the youngest daughter of a Campbell laird, Elizabeth was expected to serve her own family in Appin, and to assist her sisters, Jane and Margaret, in the raising of their families.

In June 1804 Elizabeth met her cousin, Lachlan Macquarie, for the first time, at Lochbuie House on the Isle of Mull. They were both in attendance at the deathbed vigil for Murdoch Maclaine (1730-1804), 19th Laird of Lochbuie. Murdoch was the husband of Jane Campbell of Airds (c.1761-1824) and Elizabeth was at Lochbuie House assisting her elder sister maintain the Lochbuie household as Murdoch lay dying - and to help with the care of their ten (10) children (two sons and eight daughters).

Macquarie had travelled to the Isle of Mull from Edinburgh in company with Elizabeth's brother, John (1767-1834), and in his 1804 diary Macquarie recorded his first impression of Elizabeth Campbell:

1804 June 27
"... I also found Miss Elizabeth Campbell of Airds here, who had lately arrived from Edinburgh with Lochbuy's two sons; and who had come here on purpose (tho just then on the eve of going up to London on a visit to her Aunt Mrs. Campbell of Cowhin) from the benevolent generous motive of affording all the consolation and assistance in her power to her Sister Mrs. Maclaine and her young Family in their present great distress. — I had the pleasure of being introduced to this very amiable young Lady by her Sister Mrs. Maclaine previous to our sitting down to Dinner."

This event was a social and marital nexus that brought together three key clans of the Inner Hebridean region on the west coast of Scotland: the Maclaines of Mull, the MacQuarries of Ulva, and the Campbells of Airds (at Appin). These families were tightly bound together by tradition, marriage and obligation. The courtship of Elizabeth and Lachlan began in the context of this place and these children. Later, the sons of her two sisters, Jane and Margaret, would accompany the Macquaries to NSW in 1809 as newly commissioned officers in the 73rd Regiment: John Maclaine (c1792-1818) and Duncan Campbell (1794-1820)

1804 August 20
"Monday! — I have remained – and also my Brother – for the last Eight days constantly at Lochbuy; and we have amused ourselves principally with reading, walking, and Fishing; at which last Diversion Miss Campbell is particular expert and successful in. — We were this morning deprived of the agreeable society of this most amiable, agreeable, and very sensible Girl, whose departure occasions sincere regret to all of us. She set out early this morning before any one was stirring, in a small Open Boat for Crinnan, without any other Company or Society than the Boat's Crew!!! This girl is quite a Heroine! What a most excellent Soldier's wife she would make! – and happy – in my mind – will that man be whose good fortune it may happen to be to get her! –"

Engagement (1805-1807):
On 26 March 1805 Lachlan proposed to Elizabeth in London, four weeks prior to his return to India. At this stage, Macquarie had been a widower for 8 years. His first wife, Jane, whom he had married in Bombay in 1793, had died of tuberculosis in Macao in July 1796. He held the rank of major and yet his prospects for higher promotion in the army ranks were currently clouded with controversy. Lachlan was forty-three years of age and his current prospects of marriage hinged to a large extent upon him finding a suitable wife within the traditional network of Scottish highland families. He asked her to keep their engagement a secret for the moment, and that he would marry her when he returned from India - which he anticipated would be within four years. Following this strangely subdued engagement Elizabeth resided in Holsworthy, Devon (near Exeter) where she passed her time as a governess to the grandchildren of the Reverend Owen Meyrick.

Marriage (1808-1824):
Elizabeth's marriage to Lachlan would provide a means of escape from the constraints of highland obligations. She was a devoted wife, though clearly strongwilled and determined, with fixed notions about life and morality. She was an intrepid traveller, and her surviving 1809 journal of the voyage to Australia reveals a lively and inquisitive mind. Though dogged by ill health for much of her later life, she accompanied Lachlan on all of his major journeys throughout New South Wales and Tasmania. To her marriage she would bring loyal devotedness and intense affection - as well as a force of character and a straightforwardness that in NSW would be perceived by some as imperiousness and arrogance.

A daughter, Jane (1808), was born in September 1808 at Perth, Scotland, however, tragically, she died three months later on 5 December from unknown medical complications. In the period 1809-1814 Elizabeth suffered at least seven miscarriages. Finally a son, Lachlan (1814-1845), was born in Sydney on 28 March 1814. Not unexpectedly, he would become the focus of the Macquaries' private lives - doted upon and spoiled.

Widowhood (1825-1835):
Even after Lachlan's death in 1824, she continued to work tirelessly to promote the memory of his achievements firstly, in her stubborn refusal to accept a widow's pension from the British Government until they agreed to publish Macquarie's [1823] reply to the allegations made in the Bigge Inquiry regarding his administration of New South Wales; and secondly, in making the claim on Macquarie's tombstone inscription that his character and services to society 'rendered him truly deserving the appellation by which he has been distinguised: THE FATHER OF AUSTRALIA.'

In the immediate months after Lachlan's death she sought to consolidate her finances by selling Lachlan's military commission to a son of the Duke of Sussex for £4500. In his Will Lachlan had provided an annuity of £300 per annum to Elizabeth for life, provided the home at Gruline and 100 acres surrounding it as a dower house, and left her the sum of £700 bequeathed to her by her father. However this money was somewhat illusory. Lord Strathallan (James Drummond) had been appointed as Lachlan Jnr's guardian and was the principal executor of Macquarie's estate that was to be held in trust for Lachlan Jnr. during his minority. Elizabeth and Strathallan clashed over the management of the estate and the education of Lachlan Jnr.

Between 1825-1828 she lived a frugal existence at Barnes, in Surrey, and later in Middlesex, while Lachlan Jnr. attended school at Woodford. Each summer she took him back to Scotland to stay on their 'Jarvisfield' estate on the Isle of Mull. Throughout this period, despite the intervention and pleadings of friends and parliamentary contacts seeking to acquire a pension for her in acknowledgement of her husband's administration. She refused to accept the amount of £400 offered by Lord Bathurst in September 1825 until the written responses prepared by Macquarie in 1823 (against the matters raised in the Bigge Reports) were tabled in parliament. Finally in June 1828 the Colonial Office agreed to order the papers to be printed as a Parliamentary Paper (25 June) and she then accepted her pension.

In 1825 Elizabeth learned that her favourite friend, Miss Henrietta Meredith, had died and bequeathed her £2000 as well as a small house at 58 Upper Charlotte Street, near Portland Place, in London. She lived here throughout 1828-1829 while Lachlan Jnr. attended school in Finchley. In 1830 Elizabeth moved to Aberdeen where she rented a house for six months at Sunny Bank (at 7 guineas a month).

In 1831 Lachlan (now aged 16) insisted on joining the army and Elizabeth purchased an ensigncy for him in the 42nd. Regiment of Foot. After he joined his regiment at Birmingham Elizabeth returned to Mull to take up residence at 'Jarvisfield'. She found that conditions on the estate were far from ideal; for although she had the use of Gruline House for life, James Drummond (8th Viscount Strathallan, and guardian of Lachlan) insisted as a trustee that she buy her cattle from the Macquarie estate whenever she wanted to stock her farm.

In 1827 she had given power of attorney to Richard Fitzgerald over her shares in the Bank of New South Wales and the livestock that she had left on Henry Antill's property at Picton. He ascertained that she had £500 in the Bank and that her stock stood at 950 head of cattle. Between 1829-1835 Fitzgerald sent her £869 (approx. £145 per annum).

Elizabeth's final years in Scotland were filled with sadness and failing personal health. Her brother John died on 7 November 1834 and Elizabeth Macquarie died peacefully at Gruline House on 11 March 1835 (at 2 pm) aged 56.

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