Robert Anstey, a member of the Trumpington Ansteys, was born in 1760 in Trumpington, Cambridgeshire to parents Christopher Anstey (the famous 18th century poet) and Ann Calvert. He was educated at Eton and went on to study at St John’s College, Cambridge University.
In 1781, Robert joined the 23rd Regiment of the Light Dragoons, led by Colonel Sir John Burgoyne, and in early 1782 they proceeded on board either the ship ‘Ceres‘ or ‘Royal Henry‘ to India “for the protection and defence of the possessions of the East India Company“, arriving later in 1782.
In 1786 the 23rd Regiment of the Light Dragoons was renumbered the 19th Regiment of the Light Dragoons. Around the same time Robert was promoted from ‘Cornet’ (Second Lieutenant) to Lieutenant.
On 28 October 1790 in the ‘Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette‘ appeared the following: “NOW OR NEVER: Wanted for Captain Anstey’s independent company, 106 brave fellows free able and willing to serve his Majesty King George III. All young men ambitious in the name of independent British heroes have now the opportunity of serving the best of Kings, in that glorious character. Let such and such only repair to Captain Anstey, late First Lieutenant of the 19th Regiment of the Light Dragoons at No. 25 Marlborough Buildings…and for the further encouragement of volunteers Captain Anstey engages to make their pay equal to one shilling per day while they remain at the place of rendevous. God Save the King.“
In March 1791 Robert was further promoted to Captain Lieutenant. Then in April 1791 at St Swithin’s Church in Walcot near Bath, Robert married Lucretia (nee Luders), a lady of the Holy Roman Empire and widow of William Light.
The couple returned to India in May 1791 (we know this because in 1792 there was a “Complaint by Capt. Robert Anstey of ill-treatment of troops on board by Capt. William Smith of the Company’s ship ‘Dublin’” – this ship had sailed from England in May 1791, presumably with Robert and his bride aboard, arriving in Madras in August 1791). Whilst in India, Robert and Lucretia had a child who died. Robert left his regiment in 1793, and by 1794 the couple were back in England, where Lucretia died later that year in Tiverton, Devon.
[Note: In 1799 there was a huge legal case ‘Luders v Anstey‘ which dealt with the distribution of the estates of ‘Luders’ and ‘Light’ as a consequence of Robert’s marriage to Lucretia – see ‘Reports of Cases … in the High Court of Chancery … [1789-1817], Volume 4‘ page 501.]
The big question is therefore what role did Robert play (if any) in the Third Anglo-Mysore War in India between 1790 and 1792. Robert’s regiment was certainly heavily involved, indeed their actions are well documented in Chapter Four: ‘War With Tippoo 1790‘ of the book ‘The Nineteenth and Their Times‘ by John Biddulph. However, it is very unclear whether Robert was actively involved in the conflict, given that he was certainly in England for at least part of it. Research continues on this point.
In any case, Robert later remarried to Louisa Cane in 1796 in Walcott; by this time he was living at Canon’s Leigh House in Devon. His later military service was spent serving under the Loyal Tarbert Fencible Infantry, which was set up by Sir Edward Leslie, 1st Baronet in 1798. Robert was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1799, however the regiment was short-lived and disbanded in 1802. Robert later worked as Deputy Chairman of the Bath Committee, National Benevolent Institution.
Robert died in 1818; as far as we know he had no living children. The ‘News (London)‘ reported on 19 April 1818 that “On Saturday last, at his house in Upper Park Street, St James Square, Bath, after a long and painful illness, Robert Anstey Esq, in the 59th year of his age“. Robert is buried at St Swithin’s Church in Walcot near Bath.
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