1860, December 31: Lord Eglinton’s Prophetic Dream

Earl of Eglinton

Lord Eglinton [Larger version here.]

Archibald William Montgomerie, more commonly known as the 13th Earl of Eglinton and 1st Earl of Winton [1812-1861], is said to have been well-known and liked by his fellow countrymen (despite the rather unhappy look in the portrait above!). Lord Eglinton was semi-famous for his attempt to revive jousting tournaments as a public spectacle in 1839, which attracted around 10,000 people (and much ridicule from a political party opposed to the Earl)... unfortunately, the event was assaulted by a heavy rain, and when it was reconvened a day later, most of the crowd did not return.

         In 1866, a story about Eglinton was recorded by author William Henderson in his book The Folk Lore of the Northern Counties of England. The tale, as Henderson tells it, is that the Countess Eglinton, Lady Adela-Caroline Harriett Capel, Eglinton's 2nd wife, who had been confined for an unstated illness but had recovered from it. With her in better health, but apparently not yet ready to travel, Lord Eglinton himself traveled away to attend a wedding sometime mid-December of that year.

        During this trip, Lord Eglinton had a disturbing dream. In the dream, he was reading a copy of London newspaper The Times, and ran across an article announcing the death of the Countess Eglinton on December 31, a date that was not too far from the actual date upon which he had the dream. He was most depressed by this dream, and many noted his sad mood on the day following. When he returned home he found the countess in good health; but soon after she was moved into a damp room, which resulted in her catching a cold. The cold got progressively worse, leading to deeper illness until a night came when her husband was roused from his sleep to be told she was in a dangerous state... it December 31, the day indicated by his dream. He gave a yell of agony, but nothing changed his vision; around 9:30 that morning, his wife died.

My Source's Source

        There appears to be no earlier reference to this event than Henderson's 1866 book. Henderson doesn't name Lord Eglinton in the account, referring instead to "Lord E-----;" but it is a slim disguise, as all who could read at the time would have known to whom the reference referenced. Henderson states he was told the story by a friend of Lord Eglinton, a friend he doesn't name... so we have to take Henderson's word for the veracity of the event.

        Lady Adela died on Monday, December 31, 1860, and was 32 years old. She had given birth to the couple's second daughter -- Lady Hilda Rose Montgomerie -- on December 7, 1860. Their first daughter, Lady Sybil Amelia Adela Montgomerie, had been born just a year earlier in 1859. And it was just a year earlier than that, 1858, that she married Lord Eglinton.

        So the unstated illness of Henderson's account that had confined Lady Adela was her second pregnancy. The Countess probably stayed home while Lord Eglinton traveled because she was nursing a newborn and possibly weak from the birth. Henderson probably obscured the details of Lady Adela's death specifically because he was writing about Eglinton's prophetic dream just five years after the man's death, and it would have been both cruel and unfair to have implied the Countess had died due to her pregnancy, since her two now-orphaned daughters didn't need to also carry said implied blame for their mother's death.

         None of which, of course, says anything about whether or not Lord Eglinton actually had the prophetic dream; that's up to you to decide, based on Henderson's word for it.

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