Richard Robins seems to have been used by Elizabeth Delaval as a servant, probably to carry letters but seems to have worked for Lady Anne Newburgh, Elizabeth Delaval’s father’s widow. We know from this deposition that Delaval writes to him, and Richard Robins appears in secret service payments regarding Newburgh.1 The entries suggest that it may have been via Robins that Delaval’s letters find their way into the State Papers.
The context in which the deposition was taken was that of Delaval’s attempts to return to England. After the death of James II Delaval petitioned three times to return to Britain – in 1702 when she was allowed back to visit; in 1707 when she was given licence to live in France, and in 1713. In 1713, the last time we have a note about her in the British State Papers (as opposed to those of the Stuart court in Europe), Robins was asked about her.
Robins’ deposition gives us a snapshot of what the authorities wanted to know about Lady Elizabeth Hatcher in 1713. Robins has clearly been asked how long her has known her, how old she is and whether she is a Roman Catholic or a Protestant. The importance of Protestantism in Delaval’s life after her flight to France is made very clear here where its centrality to the possibility of her return seems to be assumed by all.
Secretaries of State: SPD Anne 1702-1714
‘Deposition of Richard Robins of St James Westminster [Middx] with information about the religion, estate, etc., of Lady Elizabeth Hatcher, and her residence in France 1713 Oct 6’
Richard Robins of St James in the Liberty of Westminr Gent maketh oath that he hath known the Lady Elizabeth Hatcher Widow above thirty years and that she always was a Protestant of the Church of England and is very well assured that she is so now And that by Virtue of her M aj.ties Royal Licence the said Lady Hatcher did come into England from France in the year One Thousand seavn hundred and two, upon the Peticion of Sr John Delavall, in order to ennable him to suffer a Com[m]on Recovery upon two Mannors in the County of Northumberland, which the said Lady had in Joyntures; which after she had done. This Depont verily beleeives that the said Lady Elizabeth Hatcher did returne againe into France (being by the said Licence appointed so to do, and this Depont hath the greater reason so to believe because he has since that time received severall letters from her directed to this Depont from thence And this Depont verily believes the said Lady Hatcher hath not returned into England since and that she is now between sixty and seventy yeares of age but the exact yeares of age this Depont knoweth not And this Depont further saith that he believes the Copy of the above mentioned Lycense hereunto annexed is a true Copy of the Original Lycence remaining in the signet office for that the Name William Cook thereto subscribed and attesting the same to be a true copy is the proper hand writing of Mr William Cook one of the foure Clarks of the signett as he acknowledged to this Depont.
Jurat facto die Octobr 17132
Ric: Robins coram me Ja: [Medgiott]3