I don’t read a lot of fiction. I don’t need to, because some of the real stories I have come across in documents held in The National Archives are just as exciting and dramatic as any novel.
A catalogue search for ‘fraud’ turned up an item of Home Office correspondence entitled ‘Registration of births, etc: Fraudulent abstraction of a leaf from the registers for St Pancras Parish: baptism of Elizabeth Laura Keeling’ dated 1866-1867 HO 45/7900. I thought there must be an interesting story behind this incident, so I ordered the file, which turned out to be a long letter of complaint to the Home Secretary from Mr Prickett of Bridlington. He gave a lengthy account of how Captain George Boynton had come to marry Mr Prickett’s daughter, Elizabeth Ann, very much against her parents’ wishes.
George Hebblethwaite Lutton Boynton was one of the youngest of the 13 children of Sir Henry, the 9th Baronet Boynton, and his wife Mary. This was a wealthy family, but since George had three older brothers he was not going to inherit the title, the money or the family home, Burton Agnes Hall. He must have decided at an early age that his best chance of making money would be to marry it. This is exactly what he did, having found himself a young heiress, Elizabeth Laura Keeling. Her father died in 1832 when she was a baby, leaving his substantial fortune to her, his only child. Not only that, he left it to her outright; under the law at that time a married woman had no separate legal existence from her husband, so that if she Elizabeth Laura married, all of her property would now belong to her husband. She was only 17 when she and George were married by licence at St George Hanover Square.