During the early 1980s, my mother saw an advertisement in the Times requesting any descendants of William Capel Slaughter to contact a box number. This my mother duly did, and through subsequent enquiries discovered that her grandfather had had an affair with a governess after the death of his first wife and that a son – Charles Slaughter – had been born as a result of this liason in the 1890s. My mother was given to understand that, on her marriage to William in 1898, Hester Mary Bruce had insisted that the baby took the name of the doctor who had delivered him rather than the name of Slaughter, so he became Charles Leslie.
It is difficult to discover the facts about these events, but there is a tantalising detail in William May’s diary entry for 23rd August 1895 in which he describes how William Slaughter came up to London from Devon en route for Switzerland where he was going on holiday with his children at Pontresina.[There are some photos of the family at the resort in my grandfather’s album].
May writes : [dined] ‘with Slaughter and Madame la Franc, alias Carlotta at the Cafe Royal…. very nice dinner of a recherche character and some excellent champagne Perinet fils of 1874.” Is Madame la Franc a code name for William Slaughter’s mistress, Carlotta or Charlotte? It sounds as though May knew about William’s affair, and they obviously all enjoyed socialising.
There are other tantalising clues as to the identity of the illegitimate child.There is a record of a Charles Leslie, who died in Folkestone, Kent on 17th August 1983, aged 85, [born 12th January 1898.]
There is also the 1891 census record of a Julia [surname indecipherable], a Swiss subject from Berne, and governess in the household of George May ,aged 33, who was a solicitor and partner with Slaughter and May.
My mother was discouraged from making further contact with her grandfather’s other family, although she would have liked to have got to know them.It seems they had put the advertisement in the paper for legal reasons, not really expecting any response and not keen to communicate further with any of William Slaughter’s direct descendants.
There are difficulties in researching illegitimate children, especially after so many years. Names are changed, family members move or die. Sometimes people do not wish to rake over old arguments or unhappy periods in their lives. However, it would have been interesting to find out about Charles’ mother, to learn about his childhood and how he remembered his father, William – the grandfather whom my mother never knew – and who, I believe, always provided generously for his ‘other’ family.