Countess Virginia Somers (née Pattle) by Oscar Gustave Rejlander, 1861
Virginia Pattles (14 January 1827 in Calcutta – 29 September 1910) was the daughter of James Peter Pattle and Adeline Maria de l’Etang. Wife of Charles Somers-Cocks, 3rd Earl Somers. Mother of Isabella Caroline Somerset; Adeline Marie Russell and Virgina Somers Cocks. Sister of Julia Margaret Cameron (the renowned Victorian photographer); Maria Jackson; Sara Monckton Prinsep (Pattle); Louisa Colebrooke Pattle; Adeline Maria Pattle; James Rocke Mitford Pattle; Eliza Ann Julia Pattle; Harriott Trevor Charlotte Pattle and Lady Sophia Ricketts Dalrymple nee Pattle. She was the aunt of Alice Prinsep.
On 2 October 1850 Virginia married Lord Somers in St George Hanover Square, London, Middlesex, England. They had three daughters, of whom one, Lady Virginia, died from diphtheria at an early age. The younger daughter, Lady Adeline Marie, married George Russell, 10th Duke of Bedford, while the elder daughter, Lady Isabella Caroline, married Lord Henry Somerset.
Lord Somers died in September 1883, aged 64, when the earldom and viscountcy of Eastnor became extinct. He was succeeded in his junior title of Baron Somers by his first cousin once removed, Philip Reginald Cocks. The Countess Somers died in 1910.
Virginia’s father James was a young Englishman in the service of the East India Company, having joined in 1792. He was the fourth born son of Thomas Pattle, and at one time owned an imposing house at No. 5 Russell Street, Calcutta, which was later used as the episcopal palace, housing a succession of Bishops in Calcutta. In 1811, James was third judge of the court at Murshidabad, and it was there that he and Adeline married. The following year, he was transferred to Calcutta where he held posts on the judicial and revenue sides of the service until his death in 1845, when his family were living in the fashionable district of Chowringhee. It has been said that James Pattle was a hard drinker, and drank himself to death. Be that as it may, at the time of his death he was the oldest servant of the Company in active employment, the “Father” of the service.
Following his death, it became known that he had left instructions for his body to be preserved in spirits, taken to England, and buried beside his beloved mother in the family vault in Marylebone Parish Church. Therefore, as had been done with the bodies of Lord Byron and Horatio Nelson, his corpse was sealed up in a large cask of spirits, probably rum, ready for transportation to England. Mrs Pattle and her two youngest daughters also arranged to travel on the same ship. There are several stories as to what happened to the body prior to its reaching England. One tale has it that Mrs Pattle had the cask containing her husband’s body placed in her home until the vessel was due to sail. It stood in a spare room next to her bedroom and one night there was a terrible explosion. She rushed into the room and found that the cask had burst, and was confronted by the “Jack-in-the-Box” figure of her dead husband, half in and half out of his temporary coffin. It is said that “the shock sent her off her head then and there, and she died raving.” In fact she did not die until some two months later. Another version is that the cask burst at sea and the body was transferred to a coffin, but the sailors saw it as an ill omen, and it had to be towed behind the ship, like Cleopatra’s Needle, for the remainder of the voyage. His body, however, did eventually reach England, and was buried six months after his death, in St. Giles Church, Camberwell, where his mother’s body lay [not in Marylebone as he had said]. The Pattles had a large family, nine girls and one boy who died in infancy:
Adeline Maria Pattle (MacKenzie) 19 Mar 1812, Calcutta, IND, d. 26 May 1830, (at sea).
James Rocke Mitford, b.1813 d.1813
Eliza Ann b.1814 d.1818 died at sea?
Julia Margaret b.1815 d.1875
Sarah Monckton b. 1816 d.1887
Maria (Theodosia) b. 1818 d. 1892
Louisa Colebrooke b. 1821 d.1873
Sophia Ricketts b. 1829 d.1911
Virginia b. 1827 d. 1910
Harriett Trevor Charlotte b. 1828 d.1828
Seven beautiful and talented Pattle sisters graced the Victorian era. William Thackeray coined the phrase “Pattledom“.