DEATH AT CARLTON HOUSE – THE SORRY TALE OF A FOOTMAN’S SUICIDE

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If readers see in me a morbid fascination with the matter of suicide they are not wrong, since this is the second such report that I have committed to blog.   However, my interest is not only in the process by which the truth is arrived at, and in the conflicting reports which give colour to the story, but in trying to devine the state of mind of the deceased and his reasons for committing the ‘rash act’.  This is probably the only occasion when a member of Prinny’s staff actually killed himself in Carlton House.  A sad and rather grisly issue is why the footman decided to shoot himself twice in the body instead of in the head, as if he wanted to die in the more painful fashion.  If you read the reports through to the end you will feel the language being used, and finally understand more about why this unfortunate man took his own life.

Evans’ and Ruffy’s Farmer’s Journal of 28 July 1810 begins the sad story:

SUICIDE
On Wednesday morning last, the people in Carleton-house were alarmed by the report of a pistol, from a room adjoining the servants’ hall, which, a few seconds after, was followed by another report;  and on opening the door, a most terrific scene presented itself; one of the footmen, of the name of Tranter, lay weltering in his blood, with his shirt and cravat on fire.  He survived about nine minutes, and was sufficiently sensible to inform the people around him that he was his own executioner, and that it was his desire to die.  The first ball, it was supposed, took a slanting direction from the breast, but the second lodged in the neck.  It was conjectured that losing at play was the cause of suicide.

The Times of 26 July continues:
Yesterday morning, one of the most deliberate and horrid suicides was committed by a young man by the name of Tranter, a footman in the employ of the Prince of Wales.  He entered Carlton-house as early as between five and six o’clock, and went in to the servant’s hall, where he was found writing by another servant named Barr, who had got up early.  They conversed together without his perceiving anything extraordinary in Tranter’s conduct or behaviour.  At length Barr left the hall, and when he was in another part of the house heard the report of a pistol.  He had no suspicion that it proceeded from the hall, but returned there as he intended, when he found Tranter in another part of the hall, and at the instant called to know what was the matter; and looking at him, he perceived blood flowing from his stomach, and that he had shot himself with one of his travelling pistols, which are always kept loaded; his waistcoat was on fire, occasioned by the wadding of the pistol.  Barr was so much alarmed by this horrid sight, that he ran out to fetch the gate-porter to assist.  On his return with the porter, just before they got to the hall-door they heard the report of a pistol, and its fall.  They found that Tranter had been so completely determined on his own destruction, that he has got off his waistcoat, which was on fire, and, in his wounded state, he had got across the hall, about ten yards,  and procured another loaded pistol, and discharged the contents into his left side.
Barr asked Tranter what had induced him to do the rash act? He replied: “He had done it himself, and it was no business of his or anybody else”.  Tranter lived about twenty minutes.  The letter he was writing proved to be a letter to his sister’s husband, bequeathing all his property to his sister, amounting to about 500l., except 40l. to be given to a natural child.
He appeared to be in very good health and spirits on Tuesday.  He neither assigned any cause for the rash act, nor can any conjecture be formed as to the cause, except a report of a disappointment in a love affair.  He had lived with the Prince between seven and eight years.  Previous to that he lived with the Duke of Queensbury as a running footman.  The body was taken to St. Martin’s bonehouse.

The Farmer’s Journal adds:
He was supposed to be a favourite of the Prince.
Thursday an inquisition was held on the body of the above unfortunate man, when it appeared that he was much addicted to liquor, and there is reason to suppose that he was labouring under a fit of intoxication when he committed the dreadful act.  Three witnesses proved, that for some days preceding, he had exhibited symptoms of mental derangement, in consequence of which the Jury returned a verdict of – Lunacy.

Bell’s weekly Messenger of 29 July 1810 gives a more detailed report of the inquest.
An inquisition was taken on Thursday, at the Light Horseman, in Orange-street, Leicester-square, before A. Gell, Esq., Coroner for Middlesex, on the body of Andrew Tranter, footman to the Prince of Wales, who shot himself at Carlton-house.
The first witness was John Barr, a foreigner, and who stated himself to be the Prince’s hussar.  He stated that he had been up all night in the footmen’s room, and a little before six o’clock on Tuesday morning, Tranter, who had been about eight years in the Prince’s service, came in reeling against the chairs, and asked witness the hour; and on being told, he opened the shutters of the hall, and asked witness if he could get the Prince’s clothes to be brushed, and said something about a review that morning.  Witness informed Tranter that it was too soon to get the clothes, as the Prince’s page in waiting was not up, and they both went out at the hall door.  Witness went to the porter’s lodge, and on his return, in about ten minutes, he saw Tranter sitting in one corner of the footman’s room weltering in his blood; he enquired the cause of it but the former did not answer him.  Witness gave an alarm to a cook, and to Serjeant Wright, a night porter at the lodge; before Wright and witness got back to the deceased they heard the report of a pistol, and on entering the room, Tranter had moved, and was then sitting in the middle of the room; his coat, waistcoat and cravat were off, and his shirt was on fire, as was also his waistcoat, which was lying on an adjoining table, and there was a pistol smoking under the cravat.  Wright asked Tranter what was the matter, and who had hurt him?  The latter replied that he had done it himself and he should be off in a few minutes.  He left a paper in the window, addressed to his sister, which witness understood to be a sort of will, which stated that she should have what property he possessed, after giving 40l. to a natural child of his.  Tranter lived about twenty minutes after the second shot was fired.  Witness conceived him to be a good fellow servant, and never heard of his having been given to gaming, or any other propensity that might rack the mind.  The deceased, to use the witness’s own words, was rather snuffy (meaning tipsey) when he came in, but he was accustomed at times to get inebriated.  Witness never conceived him to be in any way deranged, nor could he account for the cause of suicide.
J. Wright corroborated the testimony of the preceding witness, and he described the words of the deceased, on being interrogated, thus: “I have done the deed, and have but a few minutes to live.”  Witness saw the deceased come in at twelve, and go out again at one on Tuesday morning.  He talked with him some time, and he appeared rather wild, and went off in a great hurry.  He was accustomed to drink very freely, and witness could not account in any other way for his rash conduct.  Two pistols were found in the room.
Mr. Phillips, a Surgeon, proved that the deceased had met his death by two pistol balls, one of which had entered the breast, and he conceived must have lodged in the back bone, and the other, which had entered on the left side, must have lodged in the lungs.
To prove a kind of derangement three witnesses appeared, one of whom, the Prince’s chairman, G. Bowring, stated that the deceased had been much altered for some time, and that about ten days ago he expressed much anxiety at being obliged to drop the acquaintance of a Jewess, in the city, in consequence of religion preventing their union.  Witness, who was in great confidence with him, jocosely asked him how he would get rid of three other lasses, and he expressed great uneasiness.  Two or three days ago the deceased informed the witness that he had quarrelled with himself, and had agreed to make it up with himself by a treat of a glass of ale, and after running on wildly, he observed that the best way to rid himself of his troubles would be to clap a pistol to his head, as one thing and another distracted him.  Mr. Rymer, and another witness, also spoke of a material alteration in the deceased for three months past.
The Coroner left it entirely to the Jury to weigh the evidence, and they returned a verdict of Lunacy.  The deceased was forty years of age.

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