Love at Coughton Court
“Miss Catherine Collingwood was a fashionable young lady, and a great friend of Mrs Delamy and the Duchess of Portland, whose “dearest Colly” and “Collyflower” she was. She mystified these two friends with threats of retiring into a convent and then suddenly announced her marriage to Sir Robert Throckmorton, 4th Baronet. In the Blue Drawing Room their paintings hang opposite each other.
Who was Catherine Collingwood?
Catherine Collingwood, "Dearest Colly" to her friends, was the much loved second wife of Sir Robert Throckmorton, 4th Baronet (1702-91).
Daughter of an executed Jacobite
Her father, George Collingwood, had been hung, drawn and quartered in 1716, after the Battle of Preston, for his support for the Catholic Jacobite cause. Catherine was therefore fatherless and the family estates in Northumberland had been confiscated before she was 2 years old.
Convent or Coughton?
As a young woman Catherine seems to have been much admired and had her fair share of suitors. However she did at one point consider becoming a nun. Her family and friends pleaded with her to reconsider and thankfully for Sir Robert Throckmorton, she decided not to enter a convent. As one of her friends wrote, "I don't take you to have any nun's flesh about you". Another wrote "I think the Death of a Person I loved would hardly give me so much pain as their shutting themselves up in a cloister to think they are in the world and that there is no possibility of seeing them, would be dreadfull. Stay amongst us my Dear Colly, your fair example will be more meritorious to yrself, as well as beneficial to the world than retiring to a cell" (18th century spellings)
Interestingly Sir Robert Throckmorton's sister Ann became abbess of an Augustinian convent in Paris and there were 4 Throckmorton nuns from this generation .
A Happy Marriage and a Lively Correspondent
Catherine would not have regretted her decision as her marriage to Sir Robert in 1738 appears to have been a very happy one. That same year the couple had a daughter, Barbara, who later married into another leading Catholic family, the Giffards.
" Sir Robert "has been married almost two years and can find out more perfections in his fair Colly than when he was first in Love, and she still thinks him the most amiable of mankind.""
Both before and after her marriage, Catherine mixed in high London society, being a member of the Duchess of Portland's circle as well as corresponding with another leading socialite and artist of the day, Mary Delany. The Duchess and Mrs Delany were both members of The Bluestockings, a group of aristocratic women who were trying to increase the intellectual opportunities open to women. The letters that flowed between Catherine and her female friends in particular are akin to reading a Jane Austen novel as they are full of the latest gossip concerning marriages, engagements and love affairs, as well as more mundane topics, such as medical remedies. Catherine is also often referred to as "Dear Doctor" by her friends, perhaps because of this.
A Short Life
Catherine died in 1761 so did not live to see her grandson, Thomas, born in 1764, or the death of her only child, Barbara, after giving birth to him. However in light of her happy marriage and the interesting social circle within which she mixed, her relatively short life had been a particularly full one.
Research by Sue Broome