Wolverhampton BTW

Anne Elizabeth Cholmley Murray

Murray, Anne Elizabeth Cholmley (Lady) née Phipps, 1788—1848

by Benjamin Colbert

Anne Elizabeth Cholmley Phipps was born on 19 May 1788, the daughter of John Constantine Phipps, Baron Mulgrave (1744-92; ODNB), naval officer, arctic explorer, and politician, and Anne Elizabeth Phipps, née Cholmley (1769-88). Her mother died in childbirth leaving her as her father’s sole heir. After her father’s death in 1792, Anne Elizabeth Phipps grew up under the guardianship of her widowed grandmother, Anne Jesse Cholmley (1748-c.1812). Her guardian’s consent was needed and obtained when, still a minor, Anne Elizabeth Phipps married Sir John Murray, eighth baronet (1768?-1827; ODNB) in 1807.

Her husband was an army officer – a major-general at the time of their marriage – whose career had been chequered. While serving in India in 1804, he nearly had been relieved of his command and needlessly endangered his troops the following year. He served as MP for Wooton Bassett from 1807 until 1811, when he assumed his baronetcy and took up the previous baronet’s seat as MP for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, Dorset (until 1818). During these years he continued to serve abroad, in Sweden and Portugal (1808-09) and, disastrously, Spain (1813), where his actions led to his court-martial in 1815, although the trial was concluded in his favour, in 1816. Where Lady Murray resided or how she occupied herself during these years is at present unknown, although it is highly unlikely she would have accompanied her husband abroad during the war with France.

Nevertheless, by 1816, when Lady Murray first visited Italy, she had acquired a sound understanding of art and art history, gained proficiency in French and possibly Italian, and was immensely wealthy. Her husband’s baronetcy brought him over £500,000 and she herself was an heiress. While her husband became known as a patron of the arts, Lady Murray more quietly gained a reputation as a competent judge of artistic quality and took a keen interest in the European art market. The 1816 visit was the first of many trips in which she toured public and private collections of art in Europe, visited the studios of artists and sculptors, all the while moving in the upper echelons of society as befitting her social status.

Twice she privately printed accounts of these tours drawn from her journals, perhaps as aides de memoirs. These accounts are immensely detailed in their lists of the art works she saw, and full of details on the social gatherings she attended. The first of these books was Tour in Holland in the Year MDCCCXIX, privately printed in 1824, and taking in not only the visit of August to October 1819, but also subsequent visits in 1822 and 1823. A Journal of a Tour in Italy, five volumes privately printed in 1836, focuses on her tours of 1833-36, but also looks back to her visits in 1816 and 1821.

Sometime after 1823 she became a pupil of the Belgian painter François-Joseph Navez (1787-1869), joining ‘l’Atelier des Dames’ on the rue Royale in Brussells (Navez’s atelier was later incorporated into the Académie de Bruxelles). Navez became a friend and Lady Murray thereafter wrote him letters in French in which she reported on the art world in London and Europe, as she experienced it in her travels. In a letter of 4 August 1827, she told Navez that her husband had set up a studio for the portrait painter Pieter Christoffel Wonder, who was painting his portrait (probably the ‘Patrons and Lovers of Art’, now in the National Gallery) (Alvin 319-20). The likeness proved to be his last, for Sir John Murray died on 15 October 1827 at Frankfurt am Mein.

Murray died without issue according to published evidence (Rober), but Lady Murray refers to a daughter in a letter to Navez of 11 February 1836: “A Rome, ma fille a beaucoup cultivé la peinture, sous les auspices du chevalier Agricola, mon bien ancien ami, qui lui a permis de porter son chevalet dans son atelier où elle passait toutes les matinée” ‘At Rome, my daughter has cultivated painting under the auspices of the chevalier Agricola, my old friend, who allows her to carry her easel into his studio where she spent every morning’ (Alvin 322). This was perhaps the ‘Ellen’ to whom Lady Murray refers affectionately in Journal of a Tour, but whether ward or daughter remains a mystery.

The circumstances of Lady Murray’s own death at the age of 59 at Turin on 10 April 1848 are also at present unknown. Among her last acts were to bequeath £10,000 for the construction of the ‘Sir John Murray Ward’ at Middlesex Hospital, a commission executed in 1848 from the designs of the architect Thomas Henry Wyatt (1807-80; ODNB).


Alvin, Louis Joseph. Fr[rançois]. J[oseph]. Navez: sa vie, ses oeuvres et sa correspondence. Bruxelles: Bruylant-Christophe et Cie, 1870. Print.

Chichester, H. M., and Roger T. Stearn. 'Murray, Sir John, eighth baronet (1768?–1827), army officer'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sept. 2004. Oxford University Press. Web. 2 Jan. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/19633

Gentleman’s Mag. 184 (July 1848): 111. Print.

Olleson, Philip, ed. The Journals and Letters of Susan Burney: Music and Society in Late Eighteenth-Century England. London: Routledge, 2016. Print.

Rodger, N. A. M. 'Phipps, Constantine John, second Baron Mulgrave in the peerage of Ireland and Baron Mulgrave in the peerage of Great Britain (1744–1792), naval officer and politician'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 3 Jan. 2008. Oxford University Press. Web. 2 Jan. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/22188


Title Published
Tour in Holland in the Year MDCCCXIX 1824
A Journal of a Tour in Italy 1836

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