Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kirkhoven, Catherine

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KIRKHOVEN or KERCKHOVEN, CATHERINE, Lady Stanhope and Countess of Chesterfield (d. 1667), governess of Mary, princess royal, daughter of Charles I, was the eldest daughter and coheiress of Thomas, second Lord Wotton of Marley, Kent, by Mary, daughter of Sir Arthur Throckmorton of Paulerspary, Northamptonshire. She married thrice, her first husband being Henry, lord Stanhope, son and heir to Philip Stanhope, first earl of Chesterfield. This marriage appears to have taken place about 1628. Lord Stanhope died in the lifetime of his father, on 29 Nov. 1634, leaving a son, Philip [q. v.], who succeeded to the earldom on the death of his grandfather, 12 Sept. 1636; and two daughters, Mary, who died unmarried in 1664, and Catherine, who married William, second lord Alington of Wimosdley, Hertfordshire, and died without issue in 1662 (Cnl. State Papers, Dom. 16?9-31, p.41). Still young and attractive, Lady Stanhope was courted by Lord Cottington and Vandyck, but refused them both. She was thought to be in love with Carey Raleigh, and was apparently offended with Vandyck for charging too much for her portrait (Strafford, Letters and Despatches, ed. Knowles, ii. 48). She married in 1641 John Polyander a Kerkhoven, lord of Heenvliet in Saanenheim, chief forester of Holland and West Friesland, so of the celebrated divine of the same name, and one of the ambassadors from the States-general for the negociation of the marriage between Prince William of Orange and the princess royal. After the bethrodal of the prince and princess (19 May 1641), Lady Stanhope, as she still continued to be called, accompanied her husband to Holland, and acted as governess to the princess, while Kerckhoven filled the office of superintendant of the household. The Dutch poet, Kaspar van Beerle, welcomed her to Holland in an epithalamium, which forms pact of the third book of his 'Heroics' (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1641-3,p. 296; Van Baerle, Poemsta, ed. 1655, p. 526). As the princess grew to womanhood, Lady Stanhope became her chief lady of honour and her confidential friend and adviser, nor was her influence impaired by the accession of Prince William to the stadtholdership (14 March 1647 N.S.), while on his death (6 Nov. 1650) it became paramount, much to the discontent of Hyde and Nicholas, who believed, or affected to believe, that she had her own interest rather than that of the princess at heart (see Hyde, Edward, Earl of Clarendon and Nicholas, Sir Edward, 1593-1669]. During the civil war Lady Stanhope gave Charles I substantial aid in arms, ammunition, and money, and after his death she was much esteemed and trusted by Charles II and Henrietta Maria, and was party or privy to most of the royalist plots that were hatched on the continent. Towards the end of 1651 she visited England, and was arrested on suspicion of complicity in a treasonable conspiracy, but was released on finding sureties to appear for examination before a committee of the council of state. She appeared, but nothing of importance was proved against her, and she received a passport for foreign parts on 30 June 1652.

She attended the princess on her visit with Charles II to Cologne in the autumn of 1654, and thence to Frankfort, when they went incognito to see the fair in the autumn of the following year; but at her own request she remained with her husband in Holland when the princess proceeded to Paris in the winter. This was intended to make it clear that the princess's visit had no political significance, Charles II being then more hopeful of help from Spain than from France. In the autumn of 1658 Lady Stanhope came to England with her husband on private affairs. Before the Restoration, however, they returned to Holland, where Heenvliet died on 10 March 1660 (N.S.) She appears to have been much attached to Heenvliet, to whose memory she raised a splendid monument in the Pieterskerk at Leyden. On 29 May 1660 sage was created Countess of Chesterfield for life, her daughters by Lord Stanhope being granted precedence, as if he had succeeded to the earldom. Shortly afterwards she sailed for England, whither she was followed by the princess. During the short remainder of the princess's life she continued in her services, and tended her with much devotion during her last illness. Under her will she took a legacy of 500l., payment of which she secured by retaining possession of some of the princess's effects. She also kept the princess's wardrobe as perquisite. She now passed into the service of the Duchess of York, and married Daniel O'Neill [q. v.], whom she had met in Holland. On 1 June 1663 she was appointed lady of the bedchamber to the queen. On O'Neill's death (24 Oct. 1664) she surrendered his powder-monopoly for a pension of 3,000l., but retained the potmaster-generalship. She died of dropsy on 9 April 1667, and was buried in the parish church of Boughton Malherbe, Kent, the manor of which she had inherited from her father.

By Heenvliet Lady Stanhope had one son, Charles Henry, and three daughters, Anne, who married Wigbolt van der Does, lord of Noordwyk and governor of Sluys; Magdalen, whose untimely death was the subject of one of Nyendal's Latin elegies (Poernata, ed. 165, p. 455); and Emilia, who, with her brother, was naturalised by act of parliament on 13 Sept. 1660, and died unmarried in 1663. Another of Heenvliet's daughters, Walbrooke, wife of the Hon. Thomas Howard, brother of James, earl of Suffolk, master of the Horse to the princess royal, and one of Thurloe's spies, cannot have been Heenvliet's legitimate issue, unless, which does not appear, Lady Stanhope was Heenvliet's second wife. She was appointed governess to the young prince in 1654, being then married.

The son, Charles Henry Kirkhoven, Baron Wotton and Earl of Bellomont (d. 1683), was created Baron Wotton of Wotton in Kent, by letters patent dated at Perth 31 Aug. 1650. He was a great favourite with the princess royal, who made him the principal officer of her son's household, to the disgust of his Dutch attendants (Harl. MS. 4529, f. 528 b). He resided much in Holland, and was chief magistrate (schout) of Breda from 1659 to 1674. His house, Belaine, Hampstead, is praised by Evelyn and Pepys for its magnificent appointments and gardens. On 11 Feb. 1680 he was created Earl of Bellomont in the peerage of Ireland. He married Frances, daughter of William, lord Willonghby of Parham, Suffolk, and dying without issue was buried in Canterbury Cathedral on 11 Jan. 1688.

[Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges, iii. 421-3, ix. 425; Visitation of the County of Nottingham (Harl. Soc.), p. 8; Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire, i. 14, 480; H?sted's Kent, i 140, ii, 430; Baker's Northamptonshire, ii. 202; Letters of Philip, second Earl of Chesterfield; Biographisch Woordeboek (Polyander); Burke's Extinct Peerage ('Wotton' and 'Kirkhoven'); Lords' Journ. v. 681, xi. 145; Nicholas Papers (Camd. Soc.), i. 203-4. 218; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1640-1 p. 591, 1651-2 pp.95, 253, 547-8, 568, 1655 pp. 324-5, 1655-6 p. 31, 1663-4 p. 517, 1664-5 p. 77; Groen van Prinsterer's Archives de la Maison d'Orange-Nassau, 2ième série, tom. iv. and v.; Thurloe State Papers, i. 683, 700, 742, ii. 284, 513, 694, 701-2, vii. 131, 168, 228, 315, 334; Abelin's Theatr. Europ. ix. 222; Merc. Polit. 25 Oct. 1655, Parl. Intelligencer, 1-8 June 1663; Lower's Relation, pp. 66, 71; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. App. 129a; Pepys's Diary, 17 Aug. 1668; Evelyn's Diary, 2 June 1676; O'Hart's Irish Pedigrees, p. 385, Montgomery MSS. Belfast, 1830, p. 65; Van Goor's Beschryving der Stadt en Lande van Breda, 1774, p. 213; Granger's Biog. Hist. ed. 1779, iv. 169; Mrs. Everett Green's Lives of the Princesses of England.]

J. M. R.