In our first biographical episode, we introduce you to a woman whose name you should know, but you have probably never heard of: Lady Margaret Middleton. We chat a little bit about Margaret’s early life and what it would be like to grow up as the daughter of a prison warden in the eighteenth century. We also talk about the significant role Margaret played in shaping the religious character of the politician who oversaw the British Royal Navy. And how the beginning of British abolitionism was “the work of a woman.” In the middle of this discussion about Margaret’s life, we ask the Internet experts a highly important question: is Kate Middleton related to Lady Middleton?
Scripture References (ESV)
John 3:16; Numbers 14:18; 1 Peter 3:20; Acts 13:18; Nehemiah 9: 17; 1 Timothy 1:13, 16.
Featured Women of the Church
Lady Margaret Middleton (1730-1792): As the daughter of an upper-class British family, her parents expected her to marry a suitor of their choosing. But Margaret defied her parents and married the man of her choice, even though it meant losing her fortune. Considered one of the most “accomplished women of her time,” she used her connections and considerable influence to push for the first bills for abolition in British Parliament (qtd. in Rendell 45).
Lady Elizabeth Bouverie: Margaret’s wealthy childhood friend, who owned Teston House (later Barham Court). Like Margaret, she was devout and considered it her Christian duty to support various philanthropies in her parish. Hannah More would write of those who lived at Teston: “Nothing can exceed the goodness of the inhabitants whose lives are spent in acts of beneficence…such an enchanted Country, such Books! Such nightingales! Such Roses! Then within doors such goodness, such Charity, such Piety! I hope it is catching and that I shall bring away some of the odour of sanctity about me” (qtd. in Brown).
Hannah More (1745-1833): After achieving literary success in London as a writer and playwright, Hannah turned her attentions to her personal faith and the welfare of others. In addition to her work as an abolitionist, Hannah sought to reform society through writing educational literature, religious tracts, and political pamphlets. At Hannah’s funeral, the officiating ministerquoted from her famous novel Coelebs in Search of a Wife “to describe her guiding principle in life: 'If it be absurd to expect perfection, it is not unreasonable to expect consistency'” (Skeed).
Diana Noel Edwardes (1762-1823): The Middletons’ only daughter. Although she had eighteen children, her marriage to a non-devout, wealthy banker and politician was an unhappy one. Like her mother, Diane was an abolitionist and supported numerous philanthropies. (Carter)
"There is always something we can get from spending time with like-minded women."
“For her contemporaries, Margaret was a central figure in the early abolition movement. ‘As Hannah More in 1791 told Lady Middleton in private correspondence that ‘you have the first title to every prize on the whole slave subject.’ Christian Ignatius Latrobe, who was a leading figure in the Evangelical Moravian Church who spent nearly four months at Barham Court in 1786, stated that the ‘abolition of the slave trade was . . . the work of a woman.’ For him, Lady Margaret Middleton ‘was the honored instrument of bringing the monster within range of the artillery of the executive justice of this kingdom’” (Brown).
“As Jen Wilkin says in her book In His Image, ‘The hope of the gospel in our sanctification is not simply that we would make better choices, but that we would becomebetter people…The gospel teaches us that the grace that is ours through Christ is, by the work of the Spirit, transforming us increasingly into someone better’ (14). As we become more sanctified, we are increasingly like the perfect image bearer: Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:13: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (ESV)…We are not supposed to be glory hounds. Our lives are never about us. We are supposed to bring glory to God. He is more than worthy of our adoration, devotion, and worship. The women featured in this season of “Women of the Church” knew that they were image bearers and that they desperately needed the Gospel.”
Dates to Remember
1784: James Ramsay published his pamphlet, titled “Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies.” The abolitionist Thomas Clarkson said that it was the ‘first controversy ever entered into on the subject, during which, as is the case in most controversies, the cause of truth was spread’” (qtd. in Rendell).
1790: The first bill for abolition fails in British Parliament.
1792: The House of Lords reject an Abolition Bill passed by the House of Commons.
Terms to Know
Dowry: “Property or money brought by a bride to her husband on their marriage” (dictionary.com).
Calvinism: Calvinists derive their theology from John Calvin, who taught that “human beings are totally depraved, unable to choose to follow God on their own, and [the elect are predestined] by God to be saved” (Melnyk 181).
Living (or Benefice): “Relates to all that [a member of the clergy] accepts on his appointment to a parish – any endowments, the cure of souls in the parish, the freehold, the occupation of the clergy residence, be it vicarage or rectory” (“benefice”).
Communicable Traits: The traits that God shares with/communicates to his image bearers (Wilkin 22).
Incommunicable Traits: The traits that God does not share/communicate to his image bearers (Wilkin 22).
2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
Description of Fleet Prison: https://www.londonlives.org/static/Prisons.jsp
Morriss, Roger. "Middleton, Charles, first Baron Barham (1726–1813), naval officer and administrator." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 3 January 2008. https://www-oxforddnb-com.
Killingray, David. “Kent and the Abolition of the Slave Trade: A County Study, 1760s-1807.” https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/media-new/pdfs/killingray.pdf.
Carter, Grayson. “Noel [formerly Edwardes;née Middleton], Diana, suo jure Baroness Barham (1762– 1823), evangelical patron.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23 September 2004. https://www-oxforddnb-com.
The Westminster Catechism.
Skeed S.J. "More, Hannah (1745–1833), writer and philanthropist." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23 September 2014. https://www-oxforddnb-com.
LMM Portrait Source: https://www.npg.org.uk, NPG 7043
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