29th of February

St Oswald, bishop of Worcester, and archbishop of York, 992.


Born. – Gioacchino Rossini, 1792, Pesaro
Died. – St Barbas, bishop of Benevento, 684.



29th February, 1730, in a small private nunnery of Poor Clares, in King-street, Dublin, an aged lady was found in the morning, fallen out of bed, stiff with cold, and beyond recovery. The person who died in this obscure and miserable manner had once been the very prime lady of the land, the mistress of Dublin Castle, where she had received a monarch as her guest. At an early period of her life, she had been one of the loveliest figures in the gay and luxurious court of Charles II. She was, in short, the person celebrated as La Belle Jennings, and latterly the wife of that Duke of Tyrconnel who nearly recovered Ireland for King James [VII.] She entered life soon after the Restoration, as maid of honour to the Duchess of York, and in that position had conducted herself with a propriety all the more commendable that it was in her time and place almost unique. As wife of the Duke of Tyrconnel, during his rule in Dublin in 1689-90, her conduct appears to have been as dignified, as it had formerly been pure. It is presented in a striking light in Mrs Jameson’s account of what happened after the battle of the Boyne – ‘where fifteen Talbots of Tyrconnel’s family were slain, and he himself fought like a hero of romance.’ ‘After that memorable defeat,’ says our authoress, ‘King James and Tyrconnel reached Dublin on the evening of the same day. The Duchess, who had been left in the Castle, had passed four-and-twenty hours in all the agonies of suspense; but when the worst was known, she showed that the spirit and strength of mind which distinguished her in her early days was not all extinguished. When the King and her husband arrived as fugitives from the lost battle, on which her fortunes and her hopes had depended, harassed, faint, and so covered with mud, that their persons could scarcely be distinguished, she, hearing of their plight, assembled all her household in state, dressed herself richly, and received the fugitive King and his dispirited friends with all the splendour of court etiquette. Advancing to the head of the grand staircase with all her attendants, she kneeled on one knee, congratulated him on his safety, and invited him to a banquet, respectfully inquiring what refreshment he would be pleased to take at the moment. James answered sadly that he had but little stomach for supper, considering the sorry breakfast he had made that morning. She, however, led the way to a banquet already prepared; and did the honours with as much self-possession and dignity as Lady Macbeth, though racked at the moment with equal terror and anxiety.’1



It is a pity that such obscurity rests on the personal history of this light of the middle ages. He was an innovator upon the stereotyped ideas of his age, and got accordingly a dubious reputation among formalists. If he had been solely the author of the following sentence – ’Authority springs from reason, not reason from authority – true reason needs not be confirmed by any authority’ – it would have been worth while for Scotland to contend for the honour of having given him birth.


1  Memoirs of the Beauties of the Court of Charles II., vol. ii. p. 223.


On this Day in Other Sources.


The 29th of February, this year, 1565, [Henry Stewart, Lord] Darnley, with much ado, obtained leave to come to Scotland, and to stay for 33 months, under [the] colour that he might be present at the restoring of his father, and so he came to Edinburgh in this month; and no sooner is he arrived, but, incontinent, falls the Queen in love with him, and presently dispatches one to Rome for a dispensation (they being within degrees forbidden to marry by the popish law); and [Richard Maitland, Laird of] Lethington is sent to Queen Elizabeth, to entreat her consent to marry with Darnley.

– Historical Works, pp.275-340.

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