Thursday, 22 January 2015

Samuel Pepys' illegitimate niece

Samuel Pepys' younger brother Thomas Pepys (1634-64) was a tailor like their father, he also had a speech impediment which made him awkward socially. This may have contributed to the fact that Thomas remained unmarried at the time of his early death. However, Thomas did have an illegitimate daughter.

Samuel Pepys

Thomas Pepys had gotten his maid Margaret, "an ugly jade" as Samuel Pepys describes in his diary, pregnant. Margaret in fact gave birth in the parish of St Sepulchre to twin girls named Elizabeth and Anne, however Anne died shortly after being born. The twins were given the surname of Taylor and their father was recorded as a John Taylor - probably using Thomas' trade as an alias for himself.
Elizabeth Taylor was placed in the household of a Mr Cave to be cared for.

Thomas Pepys died on the 15th March 1664 and his brother Samuel Pepys was informed of the existence of his niece on the 6th April 1664 by an old servant of his fathers called John Noble.

The child, Elizabeth Taylor, must have been born around August 1663 as it was told that Thomas had gotten Margaret pregnant on 'November 5th', and therefore the business of her care seems to have been an ongoing issue for some time. Thomas Pepys had firstly trusted a man called Mr Crawly with helping him with the matter, and who would take money from Thomas for the child. However, Thomas discovered that Mr Crawly had been taking the money for himself rather than for the child, and was requesting more and more money from him. Thomas found himself backed into a corner, as he was not well off financially, and therefore turned to John Noble for help.
With John Noble's help, Thomas' first idea was to go to "the other side of the water" and pay a poor woman who would be willing to take the child in. They did go but did not go through with this plan as John Noble pointed out that if the child's mother Margaret did in the future want to see her child, if they could not produce the child to show her, Thomas could be accused of murder.
A poor pensioner from the parish of St Bride's named Mr Cave was found to be willing to take the child into his care, for the price of 5l and he was to keep the child without future demand for money. However, as the parish was already a poor one and Mr Cave had brought another child into it, that wasn't his own, he was sent "to the Counter", meaning prison, for adding more financial burden upon the parish. Mr Cave then wrote to Thomas Pepys from prison, begging him to help him get released. It seems that Thomas did indeed help Cave as he was released from prison soon after. Once released, he asked Thomas for 5l more for the keeping of his daughter Elizabeth, which he gave to him. Thomas entered into a bond with Cave of 100l to secure 'John Taylor' from 'all trouble, or charge of meat, drink, clothes, and breeding of Elizabeth Taylor'. It was Noble who gave Thomas the money to pay the bond, and will also pay him a futher 20s.

After the death of Thomas, Mr Cave then tried to get money for the child from Thomas' parents, with Samuel himself then becoming involved. Samuel did not want his parents to have to pay for the child, and used the ambiguity of their parentage to his advantage. There was only a very small number of people who could prove that Thomas had been the father.
It appears that John Noble later chose to support Mr Cave's claim rather than that of Samuel Pepys concerning payments towards the child, and that if the matter was brought to court, he would bear witness for Mr Cave. As there were witnesses who could attest to the fact that Thomas Pepys had admitted to them that the twins were his; a Mr Randall, who was a carpenter, and his wife, as well as the midwife who attended Margaret had all heard from Thomas himself that the children were his and he had told them the circumstances of the conception.

Samuel Pepys was angry about the whole situation and refused to pay any of his own money for the child. Samuel used the fact that the child had been christened with the surname 'Taylor' to argue that there was no real proof that the child was his brother's and therefore the Pepys family were under no financial obligation to the child. Samuel and his father were both 'vexed to think what a rogue my brother was in all respects'. Samuel had no concern for the child that was his niece and saw the situation as just another problem caused by his brother. Thomas Pepys had also left at his death a number of debts, which Samuel had to deal with.

There is no further mention of Elizabeth Taylor or what happened to her after the 25th August 1664. It can be surmised that neither Samuel nor his parents paid any money towards the child's upbringing.

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