A Real-life ‘Barry Lyndon’: The Adventurous Career of Horace St Paul (Part II)

Helion author Neil Cogswell tells the story of Horace St Paul, whose extraordinary career has more than a little in common with the eponymous hero of Thackeray’s novel and its Stanley Kubrik film adaptation. In Part I, we heard how the young St Paul fled into exile to avoid a murder charge stemming from an illegal duel. In France he made the acquaintance of Prince Charles of Lorraine, Governor of the Austrian Netherlands and the brother-in-law of Maria Theresa the Empress Queen of Austria. With war clouds gathering, this connection enabled him to make the transition from fugitive to soldier.

The Seven Years War

When, in 1756, Frederic of Prussia invaded Saxony, Prince Charles of Lorraine, expecting to be appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Austrian army, offered St Paul a post as aide-de-camp and sent him to learn his new trade by attaching himself as a volunteer with Marshal Browne, then commanding in Bohemia. St Paul records: “I laboured hard to master every point of the profession,” and it is this learning process that makes the detail of his Journal especially interesting.

Horace St Paul in 1759

In 1757 Prince Charles of Lorraine took over the chief command in Bohemia with St Paul as a volunteer aide-de-camp. St Paul was an eye-witness at most of the major actions or had access to those who had been participants. During the following two years he occupied a similar position on the staff of Marshal Daun. During this period, St Paul rose to the rank of honorary Colonel-of-Horse and was rewarded for his services by being appointed a Count of the Holy Roman Empire. By 1760, financial stringency meant that the volunteers could no longer be given a fodder allowance, and, in addition, General Lacy had developed a more professional General Staff. Despite this, St Paul did make the campaign of 1760 possibly as part of the suite of the Princes of Saxony, but he had to return to Vienna at the end of that year.

In the Northumberland Archives at Ashington, there is some evidence that St Paul spent time at the end of the war as military secretary to Adam Friedrich, Prince-Bishop of Bamberg-Wurzburg. There is also evidence that St Paul may have considered offering his services to Russia.

In 1762, Horace’s father – Robert Paul – died aged 76. In his will, Robert left St Paul £1,000 per annum, noting that the campaigns of his eldest son had already put him to considerable expense! Because of his banishment, Horace could not inherit his father’s property which passed to his siblings.

Reinstatement and Diplomatic Career

With the war ending in 1763, David Murray, 7th Viscount Stormont, was appointed British Ambassador in Vienna. It appears that Lord Stormont and St Paul were previously acquainted and good friends. Stormont urged St Paul to submit a memorandum on the circumstances of the duel with Mr Dalton and attempt to have his banishment rescinded. It is possible that Stormont solicited the assistance of his uncle Lord Mansfield, Chief Justice of the Kings Bench, in this matter. In July 1765, a “Most Gracious and Free Full Pardon” was duly issued and St Paul was free to return to England.

In 1770, St Paul applied for and received leave to retire from the Austrian service to enable himself to accept other duties so that he could provide for his dependents.

Those other duties soon crystallised when his friend Lord Stormont was appointed Ambassador to France and requested St Paul to join him in Paris as First Secretary. During the four years of this appointment Lord Stormont was absent from Paris pursuing his other interests for more than half his tenure; in this he demonstrated the great trust that he had in St Paul by leaving him in charge of this most sensitive of legations. His Majesty’s Government also demonstrated its approval of St Paul by appointing him Minister Plenipotentiary in 1776. Regrettably HM Treasury was not especially generous in his allowance and St Paul was obliged to expend his own monies “to support that decency and appearance which is expected of the representative of a great nation”.

The time in Paris had one pleasant outcome. On 5 February 1774, Horace St Paul married Anne Weston at the Embassy Chapel; his bride was 17 years his junior. Although initially Anne was to complain to her confidantes that “We are penniless,” the marriage was happy and she gave her husband three sons and a daughter.

After his success in Paris, as judged by London, St Paul was appointed Envoy Extraordinary to the Swedish Court in Stockholm on 23 October 1776. He took this role only for a year but finally had to give it up because he could not afford it – though the excuse that he offered was the effect of the climate on the health of his wife.

The diplomatic career of St Paul is comprehensively recorded in George Grey Butler, Horace St Paul of Ewart Soldier and Diplomat (London: St Catherine Press, 1911).

Retirement to Private Life in Northumberland

St Paul now settled with Anne to country pursuits and to raise his family at Ewart House, near Wooler in Northumberland, which property he had purchased from his unmarried brother in 1775.

Horace St Paul’s saddle-furniture, with his coat of arms

His public service, however, was not yet at an end. In 1798, during the Revolutionary Wars he raised the Cheviot Rangers of 4 companies of infantry for local defence. After the breakdown of the Peace of Amiens in 1803 this force was renamed the Royal Cheviot Legion and augmented to 4 troops of cavalry and 10 companies of infantry making a total of 810 men of which St Paul was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel-Commandant.

Aged 83, Horace St Paul died peacefully with his wife and children at his bedside on 16 April 1812. He was interred in a vault beneath the Western Apse of Doddington Church, which hosts a fine memorial to his career. His wife Anne now rests beside him having died aged 92 on 5 August 1838.

The London Gazette of 15 September 1812 records that, in token of St Paul’s many services: “The Prince Regent on behalf of His Majesty grants that the title of Count shall devolve to his children.”


Some people may wish note similarities between the early career of Horace St Paul and a certain character of fiction known as Barry Lyndon. In this context, it may be of interest to note that Henry Chowell Cooper, a grandson of Horace St Paul, was at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1828. A certain William Makepeace Thackeray was also briefly at Trinity College at about that time.

My work with Horace St Paul has brought me into contact with several of his descendants, in America, in Canada and in England. I thank them, and in particular Francis Brennan, for encouraging my interest in their ancestor. The Northumberland County Archives now at Ashington have a fine selection of his papers which have proved invaluable in constructing the second volume of his campaigns that takes the story up to 1760. I am also pleased to acknowledge the interest of Phiona Stoughton, who fell in love with the portrait of Horace St Paul, and of Andrew Lumley, who was fortunate enough to purchase the horse furniture of the Count. A reproduction of the portrait and photographs of the horse furniture illustrate this note.

Neil Cogswell March 2017

Lobositz to Leuthen. Horace St Paul and the Campaigns of the Austrian Army in the Seven Years War 1756-57 can be purchased from Helion here.

This entry was posted in Books, From Reason to Revolution and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *