1860: 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 Lady Adela, Eglinton's 2nd wife, 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.

        During this trip, Lord Eglinton had a disturbing dream. In the dream, he was reading a copy of The Times (a major newspaper from London), and ran across an article announcing the death of Lady Adela on a date that was not too far from the actual date 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 was the morning of the day indicated by his dream. He gave a yell of agony, but nothing changed his vision; by nightfall, his wife had died.

My Source's Source

        There appears to be no earlier reference to this event than Henderson's 1866 book. Henderson states he was told the story by a friend of Lord Eglinton (whom he doesn't name)... so we have to take Henderson's word for the veracity of the event.

        I did find one source that mentions Lady Adela's death. She was 32 years old, and died on December 31st, just ten months before her husband also died... and we're told that she had given birth on December 7th. A further dig revealed that a daughter, Lady Hilda Rose Montgomerie, was born in 1860; it also revealed that she was the second daughter of the couple, the first, Lady Sybil Amelia Adela Montgomerie, having been born just a year earlier in 1859.

        So it seems likely that the unstated illness that had confined Lady Adela in Henderson's account above was her pregnancy. She probably stayed home while Lord Eglinton traveled because she was nursing a newborn and possibly weak from the birth. So Lady Adela may have died due to complications from the second birth leaving her with a weakened immune system. If true, then Henderson probably referred to Lady Adela's death as an unstated illness specifically because he was writing about Eglinton's prophetic dream just five years after Eglinton's death, and it would have been both cruel and unfair to have implied she died due to her pregnancy, since her two now-orphaned daughters didn't need to also carry an 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.

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