Robert Anstey (b 1760)

by Gary. M. Ansteychief researcher of the Anstey story project.

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. In 1787 he was a Lieutenant with the 19th Dragoons stationed in East Indies.

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 on 21 April 1791 at St Swithin’s Church in Walcot near Bath, Robert married Lucretia Light (nee Luders), a lady of the Holy Roman Empire and widow of William Light. According to ‘Annals of Two Extinct Families’ “In 1791, Captain Anstey returned to England again on short leave, bringing the boy with him, and this time Mrs. Light was persuaded to accept his addresses. Despite the disparity of their ages (she was nearly ten years his senior), she consented to leave her children, marry him, and accompany him at once on his return to join his regiment in India. The marriage took place at Walcot Church, Bath, on 21st April, despite the vehement opposition both of Mrs. Light’s mother and only brother, Alexander Luders, and of Captain Anstey’s father and such was the haste that no settlement of her fortune could be made, the whole of it passing to her husband absolutely. After the marriage the pair went to London, on their way to the Indiaman which was expecting to sail at once, and called on Mr. Luders at his chambers. But he refused to see them. Before the marriage Captain Anstey had written to Mrs. Light, offering, should the marriage take place, to settle one-third of her fortune on her existing children and one-third on any future children she might have, and a document embodying some such terms was signed by Captain Anstey in a carriage on their way to the ship, and made over to his brother Arthur.

The couple returned to India in May 1791 and 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.

According to ‘Annals of Two Extinct Families’ “They remained in India for about two years : one child was born, and died there. Soon after their return to England, Mrs. Anstey died, in April 1794, in her forty-third year. Her husband then took out letters of administration, and appropriated the whole of her property, apparently disregarding the post-nuptial settlement. Her brother, Mr. Luders, on whom the whole charge and most of the expense of her children had devolved after their mother’s second marriage, brought a suit in Chancery against Captain Anstey to compel a settlement, and obtained a decree, directing that the settlement proposed in the letter already quoted should be carried out. But there is nothing to show that this was ever done. The children were brought up and educated by Mr. Luders, and received no part of their parents’ fortune.

[Note: In 1799 there was a 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 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 with the ‘Bath Committee, National Benevolent Institution‘ – see for example the ‘Bristol Mirror‘ on 13 February 1813 where he was described as “Colonel Rob. Anstey, deputy Chairman and Trustee“.

Robert had one daughter, Diana Matilda Ann Anstey, who married John Peregrine Lascelles Fenwick in Walcot, St Mary’s in 1814 – the ‘Norfolk Chronicle‘ on 17 December 1814 reporting “Marriage: J. P. L. Fenwick Esq of Framlington, Northumberland to Diana, daughter of R. Anstey Esq of [Upper Park Street], Bath“.

Robert died in 1818; 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“. Other newspapers reported him as “Lieut. Col. Robert Anstey, of Bath” and “his exertions in support of the charitable organisations in Bath will be long remembered“. In his will of 1817, he left the whole of his property to his second wife and their child.

Robert is buried at St Swithin’s Church in Walcot near Bath. His widow Louisa Anstey (sometimes referred to as ‘Mrs Col. Anstey’) was also buried there on 15 February 1832, still living at 27 Park Street – the ‘Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette‘ 23 February 1832 edition reporting “Death Feb 8 at her house in Upper Park Street, St James Square, Mrs Robert Anstey, widow of the late Lieut Col Anstey and surviving daughter of the late Col. Cane of County Kildare, Ireland“.

[Researchers Note: In the early 1800s, Robert was being referred to as “Colonel Anstey of Bath” and/or “Colonel R. Anstey” – thus it is surely Robert who in 1806 was living at Ibsley House, Hampshire when, according to the ‘Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette‘ 4 September 1806 edition “The propensity of dogs to worry and destroy sheep in the night has recently been severely felt in the valuable flock of Colonel Anstey of Ibsley House Hants – ten sheep, three lambs and a Spanish ram of the Merino breed have been killed and fifteen sheep and three lambs wounded by a dog of the old spaniel breed and a mongrel dog“]

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