7th Lord Rodney

Lady Rodney’s bath tower, Berrington Hall, Herefordshire

Lord Rodney was born on 28th February 1857 to Robert Dennett Rodney and Sarah Rodney. He lived at Berrington with his family until his father died in 1864. At the tender age of 7 he inherited the estate.

After leaving Eton, George joined the army. Initially he was in the 7th Dragoon Guards but he later transferred to the 1st Life Guards. In April 1882 he volunteered for service in Egypt where Britain’s purchase of Suez Canal shares led to a heightened interest and ultimately intervention, in the country’s affairs. He was no doubt involved in the various battles and skirmishes in which the Household Cavalry took part and almost certainly in one major engagement, the Battle of Tel el Kebir that took place in September 1882.

His mother died on October 1st of the same year and so Lieutenant Lord Rodney returned to England. He was 25 years old. Before the end of 1884 however, he was back in Egypt where he fought for just a few more months, the operation coming to a close on 26th January 1885. Lord Rodney was promoted to Captain in 1886 and resigned from the regiment two years later.

On his second return to England he, his brother Robert and sister Patience, commissioned a stained glass window to be placed in Eye Church in memory of their mother. The inscription reads: “To the glory of God and in memory of Sarah Lady Rodney this window was erected by her children in A.D. 1884.”

Although Lord Rodney spent little time at Berrington, he was well regarded by those who were employed by him and those he associated with. In 1888 he features in Vanity Fair with a caricature of him stating ‘’He is a very popular young man.”

We do not know when he met Corisande Guest or how long they had known each other before they were married. They moved in similar social circles, and Corisande’s father may have thought he was an ideal match for his daughter, being the eldest son of a noble family with an estate.

When George was born, England was going through an agricultural boom, and consequently the Berrington estate was thriving. However, towards the time of his marriage to Corisande, this boom was lapsing into a depression and this affected the estate and George’s wealth.

On Saturday 24th January 1891, Lord Rodney married Hon. Corisande Evelyn Vere Guest at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly.

The homecoming of Lord and Lady Rodney was greatly celebrated by the local area of Leominster. There is a reproduction of the article published in the Leominster News on the day in the Business Room and the old photograph above shows moment of their return.

Now in a financially difficult situation he may have thought his troubles were over when he married Corisande. However, she would not move to Berrington until a bathroom tower had been built, having been used to plumbed in baths where she lived previously. There were also a couple of fires at Berrington during the time the couple lived there, one costing around £700 in repairs (around £50,000 today).

By 1901, Lord and Lady Rodney had four sons, George (1891), James (1895), Charles (1895) and William (1896). The eldest son would fight in both World Wars and eventually move with his wife, Lady Marjorie, to Canada leading the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movement in Alberta.

In 1901, Corisande filed for divorce from Lord Rodney citing cruelty and adultery as her reasons for petition. It is unclear whether or not these events actually happened or if they were fabricated to achieve a quick divorce. The latter may have been the case with Lord and Lady Rodney particularly as he remarried so soon after his divorce was made absolute.

However, the accusations made against Lord Rodney include striking her 6 days before the birth of their first child, burning her lip with a cigarette and swearing at her in front of third parties. He was also accused of having affairs with women at Berrington and in London.

Corisande then sought alimony. The children were granted the clear annual sum of £150 each until they reached 21 years of age. Decree absolute was given on 12th January 1903, almost 12 years after they were married.

Due to Lord Rodney’s declining wealth, Berrington was sold in 1901 to Frederick Cawley.

Lord Rodney married Charlotte Eugenia Probyn on 28th January 1903, just two weeks after his divorce from Corisande had been made absolute. He was 45, Charlotte was 32.

Charlotte was born in 1871, the youngest of six children to Edmund Probyn and Charlotte Seymour of Huntley Manor and Longhope, Gloucestershire. She grew up in the household of a member of the country gentry and in 1881, aged 9, she lived in a substantial house with a German Governess and 6 live-in servants.

Her father died in 1890, leaving little money to his family. The agricultural depression had affected much of his estate, and they had to sell some of their property. Charlotte and her family were living at Callingwood Hall, Staffordshire with a gardener and 2 live-in maids. There is no indication at that time that Charlotte needed to earn her own living as a governess to the Rodney children.

They eventually made their home in south London. It was here that Lord Rodney began his work with the young boys of that area, forming a group that became known as “Lord Rodney’s Boys”. This was almost certainly encouraged by his new wife.

Unfortunately, this second marriage did not last long. On 28th December 1909, Lord Rodney died at their house on Denmark Hill. He was just 52 years old and Charlotte was 38. Charlotte died in London on 5th November 1939 at the age of 68.