A message from the Hart

This is  St Botolph’s church, Lullingstone, Kent – a tiny parish church set in the grounds of Lullingstone Castle, the family home of the Hart Dyke family for several centuries:

St Botolph’s holds a special place in my heart, because it is where my wife and I were married. But I also love it for this magnificently splenetic epitaph to Percyvall Hart (1666-1738) in the side chapel:

Percyvall Hart memorial

The text of the main section reads as follows:

The munificent Repairer and Beautifier
of this Church;
Himself a true Lover of the Church of England,
And Representative of this County
in the two last Parliaments of her most Pious Majesty
During which time the Church and Clergy received
greater Tokens of Royal Bounty
than from the Reformation to her time,
or Since to this day.
Mr HART’S steady Attachment to the
Disqualified him from sitting any more
in Parliament;
Abhorring all Venality,
And scorning as much to buy the Peoples Voices,
As to sell his own.
Conscious of having always preferred
the interest of Great Britain
to that of any Foreign State,
He passed the remainder of his Life
in Hospitable Retirement;
with as much Tranquillity as possible,
Under the Declension, both of his own Health,
And that of his Native Country;
which, when he could not serve,
He Could not but deplore.

I assume that “Mr HART’S steady Attachment to the OLD ENGLISH CONSTITUTION” refers to Tory opposition to the Act of Union in 1707 (see also here), though the fond references to “her most Pious Majesty QUEEN ANNE” (who died in 1714) and to his “having always preferred the interest of Great Britain to that of any Foreign State” suggest that Percyvall Hart wasn’t too thrilled about the Hanoverian succession, either (or at least the Whig Ascendancy).

As the final section of the monument mentions, this is only one of several fascinating memorials to the Hart Dyke family in St Botolph’s:

The Curious inspector of these Monuments
Will see a short Account of
An Ancient Family,
For more than four Centuries;
Contented with a moderate Estate,
Not wafted by Luxury,
Nor increased by Avarice.

And modest with it! One of these “monuments” can be seen in the third image in the gallery at the start of this post: a memorial to Sir George Hart (d.1587), of whom the inscription informs us that:

Queen Elizabeth of famous memorie (that ever caried a sparing hand in bestowing of honour) gave him the order of knighthoode.

While I adore that little aside – “that ever carried a sparing hand in bestowing of honour” – for me nothing can beat the posthumous political score-settling of Sir George’s enraged Tory squire of a successor, 150 years later.


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