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Lady Charlotte Matilda Bruce, Lady Durham (sister in law of my 2nd cousin, Margaret Oswald)

Lady Charlotte Matida Bruce was the daughter of Lord Elgin, Charles Bruce, 5th Earl of Elgin and his wifre, Lady Martha Elgin (nee White). She was the sister in law of my cousin, Elizabeth Oswald and one of her brothers was General Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin.


Lady Charlotte married Philip Charles Henderson Calderwood Durham, later to become Rear Admiral Durham. While no children were born of their marriage, Philip Durham took part in many of history's well known events and therefore I think worthy of a quick footnote in our family history.


Philip came from a wealthy family and was the fourth of four children, and the third son. He was born in 1763 and at the age of 14 in 1777, he entered the navy aboard the ship HMS Trident. His first year at sea was rough as the HMS Trident was under command of a "tyrannical and sadistic" commander, who reduced the ship to near mutiny.


In 1778 Philip procured his discharge and then obtained a position on the HMS Edgar, serving in British waters. This proved to be a more pleasant and educational experience for the young Durham. On this ship he saw his first action in the Great Siege of Gibraltar and gained the attention of Admiral Richard Kempenfelt (after whom Kempenfelt Bay on Lake Simcoe, Ontario is named). He served under Admiral Kempenfelt on board the HMS Victory, later to be Admiral Nelson's flagship during the Battle of Trafalgar. The HMS Victory still exists and is part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy. This is the ship that Lord Nelson died on during the Battle of Trafalgar.


During the Battle of Trafalgar, Philip Durham was in charge of HMS Defiance. During the battle, the Defiance rammed the French ship Aigle, tearing off most of the French ship's bow. A long gun battle ensued but the Defiance could not get the upper hand until aJack Spratt, a midshipmen of the Defiance, risking his own life, jumped off the ship and, swimming between the two ships, boarded the Aigle and began engaging the French ship's crew single handedly until support from the Defiance could arrive.


Durham was twice wounded in the ensuing hand to hand combat, but ultimately the crew of the Defiance captured the French vessel. Durham was praised for his actions in battle by Admiral Collingwood and Thomas Masterman Hardy. The Defiance crew lost 17 men that day, and a further 53 were wounded and the ship heavily damaged.


After the battle, the wounded Durham returned to England. He took place at Lord Nelson's funeral as a banner bearer.


In 1810, Durham was promoted to Rear-Admiral.  He was again promoted to Vice-Admiral in 1819. He was lastly promoted to the rank of full Admiral in 1830 as well as made Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of Bath. Durham was also on friendly terms with King George III who liked Durham's long and rambling tales, often exclaiming "That's a Durham!" when he heard such tales from Durham.


After the death of my cousin, Lady Charlotte, in 1816, Durham was remarried to a wealthy heiress, Anna Isabella Henderson in 1817. He added the surnames "Henderson" and "Calderwood" in order to secure inheritances from wealthy elderly relatives. His second wife died in 1844, Durham journeyed to Italy. He made it to Rome and Naples before being struck down at age 81 by bronchitis.


Durham's body was returned to Largo, Fife where he was interred in the family crypt.







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