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Keeping in with the In Laws

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Always a must for matrimonial harmony I believe. Life could be rather difficult should you fall foul of your partners parents, here's a story of marital discord.

Today Hind Court is a smallish alleyway, but back in the 1660s this part of Hind Court ran straight down to Fleet Street and was lined with several large houses. One of them was home to Alexandre and Dorothea Marchant de Saint Michel. Don't suppose that rings any bells, not even if I tell you they had a daughter called Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Marchant de Saint Michel. Still none the wiser? Well, she went on to marry and her married name was Elizabeth Pepys, as she married the famous diarist Samuel Pepys.

Elizabeth Pepys

The consensus with Pepys scholars is that Sam didn't get on with Elizabeth's parents. This is possibly born out by the number of entries in Sam's diary where he alludes to the fact that Elizabeth did "visit her parents alone" and also "leaving her at her mother's door". I could find no reference of any type of interaction between Sam and the couple. In fact the most damning evidence comes from Sam's own quill, when he writes of an incident where he was to meet his father in law and rather than do so, engineers for him to be called away." and by seeing my wife’s father in the Hall, ..... I did employ a porter to go from a person unknown to tell him his daughter was come to his lodgings, and I at a distance did observe him, but, Lord! what a company of questions he did ask him, what kind of man I was, and God knows what. So he went home..."

This rift could have been down to a number of factors. Firstly Elizabeth's parents may not have been keen on Sam as a husband. When the couple married in 1655 Elizabeth was fifteen and Sam was a general gofer in the home of Edward Montagu. Then there was the string of affairs, dalliances and mistresses that Sam accumulated during his marriage.

However, it may well have been that it was Sam that shunned the in laws. His father in law Alexandre had been born into a good French family in Anjou, but had converted to become a Protestant and was quickly disinherited by his Catholic father leaving him penniless, so he travelled to England. There he found a role in the court of Charles I, but was dismissed by Queen Henrietta Maria once she found out that he was Protestant. He seems to scratched around for a living and is mentioned in obtaining a patent for a device for the curing of smoky chimneys. Sam writes in his diary "I wish they may do good thereof, but fear it will prove but a poor project".

Samuel Pepys

If Sam was anything, he was an adept social climber and rose through the ranks of the Naval Office by making sure he kept in with the right people. The French at the time were generally unpopular and who knows what damage a link with chimneys, smoking or otherwise could do to ones career?

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