[ John Latchford and Thomas Meates, King's Messengers in the foreign service. ] Material relating to them and their families, mainly transcriptions by C. E. Meates, but with some originals. With other material including a memorandum by Lewis Hertslet

John Latchford (1778-1833) and Thomas Meates (1768-1836), King's Messengers; Lewis Hertslet (1787-1870) of the Foreign Office [ The King's Messenger Service; C. E. Meates of the Pioneer Corps ]
Publication details: 
[ The King's Messenger Service, London. ] Original documents from the 1820s and 1830s from Paris, Brussels and the Hague;, and C. E. Meates's writing from the 1930s to 1960s.
SKU: 20435

For an overview of the post of King's Messenger, see 'The Cambridge History of British Foreign Policy', ed. Ward and Gooch, vol.3 (1923), which states that during the two men's time in the post (i.e. in 1822) 'the number of the corps was raised to thirty-eight. Eighteen of these were placed under the immediate orders of the Foreign Office for foreign service only. They were required to be British subjects, not over thirty-five years of age, good linguists and good horsemen; and the choosing of them rested in turn with each of the three Secretaries of State'. Both Latchford and Meates feature in V. Wheeler-Holohan's 'History of the King's Messengers' (1935). The circumstances of Latchford's death at St Petersburg are described by Wheeler-Holohan on pp.205-206, but with no mention of his widow's suspicions as revealed in the transcripts present here in C. E. Meates's account. Regarding Latchford's death Wheeler-Holohan adds: 'The Treasury tried to avoid paying the widow a pension because it could not actually be proved that her husband owed his death to his service on duty, but the Duke of Wellington took up her case, and in due course a grateful country awarded the poor woman a pension of one hundred pounds a year.' The present collection consists of two autograph drafts of C. E. Meates's unpublished 'Life and Letters' of his great-grandfather John Latchford (1778-1833), one of the two also including material relating to his other great-grandfather Thomas Meates (1768-1836), Messenger in Ordinary to King George III from 1807 to his death, and father of the surgeon and photographer William Clapham Meates (1814-1893), who married John Latchford's daughter Harriet. A third volume contains an account of C. E. Meates own service (mainly in the Pioneer Corps) in the Second World War. Also present is a contemporary copy of an important memorandum by Lewis Hertslet, as 'Agent for Messengers' Affairs', accompanied by two lists of 'Messengers Allowances', as well as original letters from Latchford to two of his daughters, a letter from his widow to John Backhouse of the Foreign Office, and modern newspaper cuttings. The two volumes of Meates's 'Life and Letters' are almost entirely composed of transcriptions from official correspondence and documents, accounts, and family correspondence. The extensive and indiscriminate nature of the C. E. Meates's transcribing adds to the value of his work, by including material which other editors would probably have trimmed away. The present description is divided into nine sections. Note that (with the exception of a couple of minor documents inserted in Item One, and the Victorian family photographs at the end of Item Two) the original nineteenth-century material consists of Items Four to Eight. The material quoted in the description of Items One to Three comprises transcriptions by C. E. Meates, while Item Nine consists of modern newspaper cuttings. The collection is in good condition, lightly aged and worn, with the exception of the two documents in Item Four below, which are aged and with fraying to the extremities. ITEM ONE: Autograph Manuscript by C. E. Meates, titled 'Life and Letters of a Kings Foreign Messenger. Written by C. E. Meates. His Great-Grandson.' A white label on the cover gives the title: 'Life and Letters of two King [sic] Foreign Messengers. 1778 to 1833. [i.e. John Latchford] and 1768 to 1836 [i.e. Thomas Meates]'. (This label is altered from that of Item Two below, to incorporate material relating to Thomas Meates.) 183pp., small 4to. Loosely inserted are a further 51pp. of notes and transcripts in Meates's autograph, including a signed note (1p., 12mo) by Meates, dated 'August 1935', regarding to 'Draffen, a fellow-Messenger'. Also loosely inserted are a transcript, in a Victorian hand, of various family funerary inscriptions, and a letter, in an envelope from the 'Misses Littlewood', accepting 'the Misses Meates's kind invitation'. Meates begins the volume itself by stating that he cannot find any 'papers of any kind' relating to Latchford's early life, all of Latchford's immediate family being dead. He explains that 'Several anecdotes and information were given to me by relatives, but most of this is taken from papers still in their possession.' Among the descendants still possessing Latchford's 'papers & letters' is 'his great grandson', Meates himself. Early on the author gives a brief history of the service, in part taken from 'a paper written in 1820 by Thomas Meates another Messenger, great friend of Latchford [and] Paternal Great Grandfather of the writer', and from a memorandum by Lewis Hertslet, a full contemporary copy of which is Item Five below. Among the transcripts of official documents are the certificate by which Latchford was 'sworn and admitted […] into the place and Quality of Messenger in ordinary to His Majesty' by Lord Sidmouth on 24 November 1815. The author also gives extracts from the 'guidance while on active service' of Lord Aberdeen, 1829. This is followed by a letter from Lawson Bradley, St Petersburg, 1829, 'threatening proceedings', accompanied by accounts. There is also a letter from 'Robt Fennessy', 'Another Messenger, a great friend of his', from St Petersburg, 24 August [no year], and an undated letter from 'Robt Hasiland' of the Foreign Office. There are followed by extracts from Latchford's 'Private Expenditure', and 'Minutes' (i.e. itemised accounts) of his journeys to Brussels, 'the Hague Station', 'Despatched to Paris Station'. A long section of the volume concerns Latchford's death and its aftermath. In October 1833 Latchford was 'ordered to proceed to St Petersburg and this was his last journey as he died there of cholera. Among his effects is a small Porters Horn used for scaring away the wolves.' There is a transcription of Latchford's 'Dear Last Letter' to his wife from St Petersburg, 1 November 1833, as well as the 'Doctors Report', written 26 days later. Also present are letters from the doctor and the children's schoolmistress to Latchford's wife, written after his death, as well as an account of his 'fatal malady' by 'Mr Kirton', 2/14 March 1834, written in answer to her query whether her husband 'said anything on his death bed'. There is also correspondence relating to Latchford's 'one & only enemy', Lawson Bradley of St Petersburg, and 'that villain' Clayworth. Mrs Latchford thinks her husband 'may have met his death by foul means, and this man [Bradley] comes to London & calls on her. She writes to Thos. Meates & he replies from Brussels Feb. 21st', assuring Mrs Latchford that Bradley 'would never have done him any bodily harm'. The volume also contains Latchford's draft will and an inventory of the furniture of his house at Alexander Square, Brompton, and a transcription of the inscription on Latchford's grave in St Petersburg, made by John Kirton. There are a few family anecdotes, including one concerning the death of Latchford's daughter Ann (1810-1820), regarding which Meates writes: 'It was told me some of the children had what they call “Black Scarlet Fever” a very bad form of Scarlet Fever. Probably Jane & John as they died about this time. I cannot find any record of this and it is said that everything was burnt in the garden at Richmond. The tradesmen were too scared to come to the house so Mrs Latchford had to call out orders from the window. I have also been told that a number of letters were buried with her, so that must account for any gaps in the story.' Another anecdote is 'told in the family by Thos Meates (I am told it was he himself) – who came back from a Journey & handed the Minister his Despatches, who after reading them said - | “You must go off again at once!” “Oh my Lord” answered he “I have not had my breakfast.” “Oh that doesnt matter at all,” replied the Minister testily. “Pull your cravat tight & look fat in the face & no one will know anything about it!”' At p.105 of the volume, after describing the details of Latchford's pension, his wife's death, and some ancestors, Meate brings his narrative to a close. The following 'Addenda' begin with a page of further details of descendants, followed by a seven-page 'doctors Report' on Latchford's death, by 'Thomas Walker. M.D.', 'enclosed in Mr Fennessy's letter, copied by Elizabeth Latchford'. (At the beginning of the volume Meates has noted that he has placed the report at the end of the volume 'as my lady readers may not care to peruse it, as it is not too pleasant to read'.) On p.122 begins 'Some Account of Thomas Meates. Kings Messenger in Ordinary', beginning with details of his French ancestors, including a family tree, a transcription of his 'oath', and his accounts, starting at the Home Office, 18 January 1816, and ending following his return from Paris in 1836. As with Latchford, details of Meate's estate are given ('Total of Property. £9967. 9. 8.'), with correspondence written following his demise. The last four pages of the volume contain personal recollections of his 'own life' by C. E. Meates, mainly describing his service during the Second World War. At the outbreak of the Second World War he is a verger at Christ Church, Westminster. In 1941 he is called up as 'Air Raid Warden in Cambridge Gdns, equipped with Stirrup Pump & “Tin Hat”. He is then 'called up to Join the R.A.C. (Tanks) in Dorset near Wool – Bovington near Lulworth Cove', but is transferred to the 4th Company Royal Tank Corps at Crowborough, Sussex, 'where I had some months of being a Medical Orderly, then when the Battalion was ordered abroad, 8th Armoured Division, I was found to be unfit for Foreign Service, & was transferred to the Pioneer Corps' Meates writes at the end of the volume: 'The tale is continued in small black book'. ITEM TWO: Autograph Manuscript, signed at the end by 'C E Meates', titled 'Life and Letters of a Kings Foreign Messenger. | Compiled from papers & letters by C. E. Meates.' 125pp., large 4to. A revised version of the biography of Latchford in the first part of Item One, but omitting the account of Thomas Meates (from p.122 of that volume), the whole arranged in a slightly more orderly manner, and more neatly written. With some of Meates's linking passages tidied up, and omitting a little material (letters to 'Mr. Alvey' and 'Friend Nixon') while inserting some other matter. One extremely useful addition is a three-page 'List of Messengers Appointments etc.', with names, dates of appointment, years of service, deaths and pensions. (This list is present among the loosely inserted material in Item One above.) In a variation of the ending of the Latchford account on p.105 of Item One, the volume concludes: 'So with this I think I must bring the story to an end of an Ancestor who lived & died in the execution of his Duty. | R.I.P. | C E Meates'. At the end of the volume are three pages carrying 'A few Photographs of the people mentioned.' There are eleven original photographs of family members, a few cut of them trimmed, and all with captions. THREE: 33pp., 16mo. In ruled account book with black waxed boards. Autograph manuscript [by C. E. Meates], continuing the account of C. E. Meates's life begun at the end of Item One above. Describing his time in the Pioneer Corps, from Minehead to Paris, and then through Germany and Belgium. On his return to London he resumes work for his old parson 'Mr Kirk' ('Prebendary of St Pauls now'), before becoming a warder at the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square. The account ends with his marriage to 'Miss Elizabeth Dennis' and move to Chelsea and then Finsbury. An addendum describes a visit to the Wallace Collection by Prince Charles and Princess Ann in April 1960. FOUR: Two unattributed complimentary manuscript documents, headed 'A' and 'B'. Densely written, and filled with information. Probably compiled by Lewis Hertslet of the Foreign Office at the same time as Item Five below, as both leaves have the same 'WDW' fleur-de-lys watermarks as it carries. Document 'A' (1p., folio) is titled 'Comparative Statement of Messengers Allowances | Foreign Service', with the other half in a table divided into three columns dated 1786, 1797 and 1822. Document 'B' (also 1p., folio) is titled 'Comparative Statement of Messengers Allow | Home Service'. The whole document divided into the same three columns as Document 'A'. FIVE: [Lewis Hertslet of the Foreign Office.] Manuscript copy titled 'Memorandum on the Salares [sic] & Emoluments of the King's Messengers', by 'Lewes [sic] Hertslet | Agent for Messrs affairs'. Dated 'Foreign office | Decr. 12. 1822'. Headed: 'Read at a Meeting of three under Secretarys of State at the Foreign office 12 Decr. 1822', and including a half-page 'P.S to memorandum added at the Colonial Office 18 March 1823'. 6pp., 4to, on two bifoliums (both on 'WDW' fleur-de-lys watermarked paper). The Oxford DNB entry on Lewis Hertslet (1787-1870) states that his father was a King's Messenger from 1797, while he himself was Librarian and Keeper of the Papers at the Foreign Office from 1810 to 1857. Wheeler-Holohan states that Lewis Hertslet acted as 'the Messenger's [sic] private agent' until 1824, but despite numerous references in his book, there is no reference in it to the present significant document, which provides a history of the post of King's Messenger with an account of its emoluments and the expenses incurred. The postscript describes 'a discovery' regarding 'some irregularity' that 'had crept into the custom of Charging coach hire in the Metropolis by the Messengers' that was made 'in the Course of an investigation which has taken place since this Memorandum was written'. SIX: Six Autograph Letters Signed to his daughter Miria [sic] (b.1817). From: Paris (1825 and 1830), Brussells (1828 and two from 1832) and the Hague (1831). Two letters with red wax seals. 15pp. As one might expect considering the age of the recipient, entirely consisting of family news and affectionate encouragement. The first letter (Paris, 13 June 1825) contains a humorous sketch of a man with the phrase 'will you Kiss me'. SEVEN: Four Autograph Letters Signed to his daughter Harriet (b.1819). From: Brussells (1828 and 1832), Paris (1830) and the Hague (1831). The middle two letters bearing seals in red wax. 10pp. Personal letters to an infant, written in the same style as those to her sister. EIGHT: Autograph Letter Signed from Ann Latchford of Alexander Square (Brompton), 6 April 1835, to '- Backhouse, Esq.', i.e. John Backhouse of the Foreign Office. 3pp., 12mo. She thanks him for the interest he has taken, 'and the writing used in obtaining for me a Pension of £100 Pr Annum as the Widow of Messenger John Latchford'. NINE: Small collection of twentieth-century cuttings from newspapers and magazines, a few relating to the King's Messengers.