Killerton's brilliant Harriet Fox-Strangways

Discover Harriet's courage during the War of Independence

Harriet Fox-Strangways, born Lady Christian Henrietta Caroline Fox-Strangways was the daughter of 1st Earl of Ilchester. She married John Acland the eldest son of Sir Thomas, 7th Baronet in 1770. John was a major in the British army, and as his wife Harriet travelled with him when he served in America and Canada during the American War of Independence.

Harriet’s American adventures

A journal was kept by a member of Harriet’s party (The Acland Journal: Lady Harriet Acland and the American War), giving us a glimpse into Harriet’s exploits in America. 
Harriet often travelled with her husband rather than stay behind in comfortable surroundings, which led to some close encounters with danger. 
Once, she and John narrowly escaped a tent fire started by their ‘trusty dog Jack Catch’. The whole party ‘were in great danger of being burnt to death by his throwing down the candle in the night which set fire to the tent’. Harriet ingeniously escaped by crawling under the back flap of the tent. 

Entering an enemy camp

During the second Battle of Saratoga, 1777, John was wounded and taken prisoner. When Harriet heard this, she took a boat down the Hudson River and requested to be allowed to tend to her husband. She was conducted through the American lines to his sick bed, doing all this despite being pregnant with their son John.
Her actions are commemorated by a plaque on the Saratoga Monument at the Saratoga National Historical Park in New York. Plaque 15 shows ‘Lady Harriet Ackland under a flag of truce to visit her husband, wounded and a prisoner’. 

Later life

Harriet and John returned to England in 1778. John unfortunately died later that same year, but Harriet lived to the age of 66. Although their son John died at 8 years old, their daughter Elizabeth – known by her second name Kitty – lived a long and happy life. 
It was Kitty’s son, the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon, who transformed the Carnarvon family’s country house into Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed.