Lawrence, Sir Thomas

Lawrence, Sir Thomas

Lawrence, Sir Thomas, 1769-1830, English portrait painter, b. Bristol. He began to draw when very young. In 1787, on his first visit to London, he met Sir Joshua Reynolds, who encouraged the development of his work. Lawrence studied for a short time at the Royal Academy. His reputation was established with the exhibition in 1790 of his portrait of Elizabeth Farren, the actress (Metropolitan Mus.). He soon won royal patronage, and after the deaths of Reynolds and Hoppner he became the fashionable portrait painter of his day. He succeeded Reynolds as painter in ordinary to the king, became an Academician, and was knighted in 1815. After the fall of Napoleon, Lawrence was sent by George IV to the conference at Aix-la-Chapelle to paint the dignitaries assembled there (portraits in Waterloo Gall., Windsor Castle, England). In Austria and Italy he made portraits of state and Church officials and, upon his return to England in 1820, he succeeded Benjamin West as president of the Royal Academy. Among the best of his portraits of children are the group The Calmady Children (Metropolitan Mus.), and the celebrated Pinkie (Henry E. Huntington Gall., San Marino, Calif.). A number of his works were hurriedly executed to alleviate financial pressure and were imperfectly finished. Among the best-known of his numerous works are portraits of Mrs. Siddons, Benjamin West, and Princess Lieven (National Gall., London) and those of George IV and Princess Caroline (National Portrait Gall., London). Examples of his portraiture are in the Metropolitan Museum and the Frick Collection, New York City, and in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

See catalog ed. by K. Garlick (1960); study by D. Goldring (1951).

Sir Thomas Robert Tighe Chapman, 7th Baronet (6 November 18468 April 1919) was an Anglo-Irish landowner, the last of the Chapman Baronets of Killua Castle in Ireland. For many years he lived under the name of Thomas Robert Lawrence, taking the name of his partner, Sarah Lawrence, the mother of his five sons, and was the father of T. E. Lawrence.

Early life and background

Born in 1846, the second of the three sons of William Chapman (1811–1889) and his wife Louisa, daughter of Colonel Arthur Vansittart (1775–1829), of Shottesbrook, and the grandson of Sir Thomas Chapman, 2nd Baronet, Chapman was educated at Eton College.

He was brought up to lead the life of a country gentleman, at a house called South Hill, near the village of Delvin, County Westmeath, a modest property of some 170 acres, and also at the family's town house in Dublin. The Chapman family belonged to the higher level of the Anglo-Irish landowning class and for generations its members had married into families of a similar standing in England and Ireland.

Debrett's Baronetage for 1918 says:


As a younger son, it was expected that Chapman would run, rather than own, the family's estates, and from 1866 to 1868 he learnt about estate management at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester. However, his elder brother, William Eden Chapman (1844–1870), an officer in the 15th The King's Hussars, died in May 1870, leaving Chapman as the heir. The third brother, Francis Vansittart Chapman, was then trained to manage the estates.

On 24 July 1873, Chapman married Edith Sarah Hamilton, daughter of G. A. Rochfort-Boyd JP DL of Middleton Park, County Westmeath, and they had four daughters, Eva Jane Louisa (born 1874), Rose Isabel (born 1878), Florence Livia (born 1880) and Mabel Cecele (born 1881).

In the late 1870s, the Chapmans took on as a governess a capable and cheerful young Scotswoman who was known as Sarah Lawrence. By this time, Edith Chapman had become zealously religious, subjecting members of her household to frequent prayer meetings and disapproving of many of their pleasures, while Chapman himself had become a heavy drinker. He fell in love with Sarah Lawrence, who was younger than him by some fifteen years. One of Chapman's daughters later recalled that her father usually had a dour manner, but whenever Sarah Lawrence entered a room, he became "all gay". Lawrence, who had been born on 31 August 1861 in Sunderland, County Durham, had been registered at birth under the surname of her unmarried mother, Elizabeth Junner, who at the time was working as a servant in the house of Thomas Lawrence, a Lloyd's surveyor, and his son John Lawrence is thought to have been Sarah Lawrence's father.

In 1885, Lawrence became pregnant. She went to live in rooms in Dublin which Chapman got for her, and in December 1885 a son was born and christened Montagu Robert. Chapman stayed with his wife, while seeing Lawrence and his son, until Edith Chapman found out what had happened. He then left his wife to live with Lawrence. He took her to live at Tremadog, Caernarfonshire, now Gwynedd, North Wales, and their second illegitimate son, christened Thomas Edward and later known as Lawrence of Arabia, was born there in August 1888.

The couple stayed only a short time in Tremadog, and soon moved on, to Kirkcudbright in Scotland, then to Dinard in Brittany, the Isle of Wight, and the New Forest, choosing places where their English neighbours were not of Chapman's class and were unlikely to recognize him. They had eight illegitimate children altogether, but three of them died young, leaving five sons who survived infancy. In 1896, still unmarried and going under the name of Mr and Mrs Lawrence, the couple arrived in Polstead Road, Oxford. The purpose of this move was largely to enable them to educate their sons, despite limited means.

Chapman lived a life of leisure and spent much of his time with his sons. He was a photographer, hunted, spoke good French, was interested in medieval architecture, taught his sons carpentry, and even in old age would quote from Homer and Horace. He bought smart new bicycles and liked to cycle long distances.

In 1914, Chapman succeeded his cousin Sir Benjamin Rupert Chapman, 6th Baronet (1865–1914), to the baronetcy. When he died on 8 April 1919, he was buried at Wolvercote. As he left no legitimate heir, the title became extinct.

Chapman's son T. E. Lawrence had already become world-famous, following the Arab Revolt of 1916. Another of his surviving sons, A. W. Lawrence (1900–1991) became notable, as an archaeologist and art historian.

Money affairs in exile

On March 30 1888, Chapman assigned his life interest in his father's estates to his younger brother Francis Chapman, in exchange for an annuity for life of £200. Their father, William Chapman, died in 1889, leaving the bulk of his property to his son Francis. However, Chapman also had (or later inherited) some capital, which by 1916 was more than £20,000, producing at the time an annual income of some £1,000, a substantial figure.

Chapman (otherwise Mr Lawrence) was probably disappointed when his brother Francis died unmarried in 1915, leaving him only £25,000 of his estate of £120,296, with £10,000 going to the Adelaide Hospital in Dublin and £25,000 being shared by Chapman's four daughters, who were also the residuary legatees. When Chapman (Lawrence) received the £25,000, he shared part of it out among his sons.

Chapman had a sister, Caroline Margaret Chapman, who in 1894 married her cousin, Montagu Chapman, later the fifth Chapman baronet, and Sir Montagu died childless in 1907. In 1911, his widow made a Will which divided the Killua estate, leaving £20,000 to her brother, Chapman, and separate large amounts to his four daughters. However, when she died in 1920, the £20,000 went to the daughters, as her residuary legatees, as Chapman had himself died a few months before and she had not specified that the bequest was to go elsewhere in that event. The loss of the £20,000 may explain the bitterness of an allusion to the Chapmans which T. E. Lawrence added to Liddell Hart's biography of him: "The father's family seemed unconscious of his sons, even when after his death recognition of their achievement might have done honour to the name."

What was left of the family's land in Ireland was sold in 1949 and then came to some 1,230 acres.


Chapman's eldest son Montagu Robert Lawrence (1885–1971) became a doctor and was a medical missionary in China.

His second son Thomas Edward Lawrence died childless in a motorcycle accident in 1935, while his third and fourth sons, William George Lawrence (1889–1915) and Frank Helier Lawrence (1893–1915) also died childless, during the First World War.

His fifth son, Arnold Walter Lawrence (1900–1991), married Barbara Thompson in 1925 and had one child, Jane Helen Thera Lawrence (1927–1977). In 1947, she married James Macdonald Cassels (1924–1994), who became Lyon Jones Professor of Physics in the University of Liverpool in 1960, and they had one son and one daughter.

Sarah Lawrence lived into her late nineties, dying in 1959.


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