03 June 2022

An autopsy on the body of the Duchess of Richmond, 16 October 1702

The Duchess of Richmond, by Sir Peter Lely

Frances Teresa Stewart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (8 July 1647 – 15 October 1702) was a prominent member of the Court of the Restoration and famous for refusing to become a mistress of King Charles II. For her great beauty she was known as La Belle Stuart and served as the model for an idealised, female Britannia. She is one of the Windsor Beauties painted by Sir Peter Lely.

This item was originally published in the Lancaster Gazette, Saturday 9 July 1892

From the Hornby Anthology, Miscellaneous papers, including the Will of the Duchess of Richmond and Lennox, and other items consequent upon Her Grace's death, copied by her old steward, John Dowbiggin.

Observations att the Embalmeing of the late Dutchess of Richmond the 16th October 1702

First, upon the Inner side of the peritoneum was found two glandulous bodies both of them preternaturall and uncomon; that upon the left side weighed 2 pounds wanting ½ an ounce; that on the right side was aboute the bigness of one's fist and had a considerable bigg vessell in itt, which upon separating from the peritoneum emitted a greate quantity of blood. 

2. There was noe omentum or caute only the vestiges of itt where itt adhereth to tbe stomack spleene &c did faintly appeare. 

3. Upon the sides of the peritoneum besides the gladalous [glandulous] bodies already mencioned there were a greate many others whose number and quantity grew greater and greater towards the lower parte.

4. The Intestines were here & there covered with a greate many glands adhereing to them some of which were as large as a big nutmeg; some hydatides or bags filled with water like bladders were mixed up and down amongst them and they stuck by soe weake a thread to the Intestines that I tooke them of withoute breakeing and with little or noe resistance. 

5. The Ventriculus or stomach was of a quite different figure from that comonly found in others, insomutch that it rather appeard like to one of the Intestines, and soe little though in the same condition as itt used to be, I believe when shee was in health that itt hardly could wey above an ounce and a halfe. I never did see or heare of such a thing in my life for itt was not shrunke. 

6. The kidneys were in good condicion withoute ever soe mutch as a graine of sand and yett gravell was always voided a greate deale during life. 

7. The spleene was as to consistene and collour verry well, but short nay almost fower cornered.

8. The Liver was monstrous; itt look'd as if itt had been boyled; its figure quite different from the ordinary, for itt was cylindricate, only the ends globular noe tissues lobe or the like annatomists speak of to bee seene: nay, though hard, and looking like a boyld one yet properly speaking itt was not schirrous. 

9. Noe vesicula-fellis or Gaule bladder was seen as is ordinary but in place thereof there appeared on the surface of ye Liver withoute any protuberances a blueish skin ½ an inch broade and aboute an inch and a half longe which when opened did containe aboute ½ a drachnie of glewy substance, brown and of the consistence of honey; 2 stones were also found in itt, but the largest aboute the bigness of a great cherry stone only. 10. 

The partes towards the lower parts were very odd . . . . 

11. Omitted. [presumably details of uterus, etc.]

12. Omitted

13. The heart a little flaccid otherwise good; the lungs when incision was made issued oute a whiteish kind of humor like as is usuall in consumptive people the right lobe towards the back & lower region a little inflamed and towards the thorax a little schirrous.

14. The right side of the pleura was hard and there spotted redd. The quantity of humor taken oute of the abdomen & breast was aboute 12 quartes, all ye lower parte, I meane next to ye back itt was nothing but mixt with a very little serum only. The rest was all tinged and that which was taken oute of the breast was allmost all pure blood.

I forgot that the mesentery was in a good state save only in one parte where itt was something schirrous.


Whitehall, 16th October, 1702.

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