The flamboyant Earl Bishop at Downhill

A portrait of a seated Frederick Augustus Hervey, The Earl Bishop, by Vigée Le Brun

Frederick inherited the title of Earl of Bristol in 1779, after his brothers died. But there's much more to Frederick then his titles. Frederick Augustus Hervey was born in 1730 as the third son of John Hervey, heir to the 1st Earl of Bristol. It was unlikely he would ever inherit the title, so he chose a career in the Church. It appears that he wasnt the usual churchman.

The facts tell us that Frederick married Elizabeth Davers at 22 and that they had five children. He was appointed Bishop of Cloyne by his brother - the 3rd Earl - in 1768 and only one year later as Bishop of Derry.

The lady’s man

The Earl Bishop was an eccentric and colourful person. He had an eye for the ladies and was reputed to have had many affairs. Among his mistresses was society beauty Madam Ritz, as well as Emma Hamilton who was also the mistress of Admiral Lord Nelson.

What society said about the Earl-Bishop

  • 'That abominable wicked old fello'
  • 'A most excellent companion, pleasant, intelligent, well read'
  • 'A shallow stream, rapid noisy, diverting but useless'
  • King George referred to him as 'that wicked prelate'
  • His own daughter called him a cruel man

The other side of Frederick

There is no doubt that the Earl-Bishop was a cultured man. He was widely travelled and had a fine appreciation of art, especially Greek and Italian. Frederick was well read and he was an expert in flora and fauna.

About his eccentricity

There are many examples of his eccentricity. It is said that he made his clergy run a leapfrog race on Downhill beach to see who would win the best area.
When he died while travelling in Italy in 1803, he asked that his body be shipped back to England in a casket of sherry.