Elizabeth Wynne, known as Betsy, was born on April 19th 1778, the second daughter of Richard Wynne, Lord of the Manor of Folkingham. She was 10 years old when she started writing her diaries and 2 years into the Grande Tour of Europe after her father had sold the Manor to the Heathcotes. She sent her tutor out to buy exercise books and the first two were written in French. The first entry in the published diaries is dated August 17th 1789 - Stotzhein, Germany. The diaries give vivid descriptions of high society life at that time. They describe in great detail the gaiety of the balls and colourful people as seen through the eyes of a child and very young lady. When the family arrived at Leghorn and were put aboard the ‘Inconstant’, the then 18 year old Betsy fell deeply in love with the captain, Thomas Fremantle. They dined and danced aboard ship whilst being shot at by the French! Captain Fremantle had orders to join the fleet off Toulon where he joined a convoy of 48 ships. Before leaving on July 14th he gave Betsy a ring to keep ‘until we meet again’.
On January 12th 1797 Betsy Wynne and Captain Thomas Fremantle were married at the home of Sir William and Lady Hamilton by an English priest. The bride was given away by Prince Augustus the son of King George III and they dined at the house where they were presented to the King of Naples. After dinner they all went to the opera with the Royal family and afterwards the couple received a blessing by a catholic priest. The following day, Betsy and Thomas were wed for a third time by another catholic priest followed by a Grand Ball at the Hamilton’s. The ship, the ‘Inconstant’ was dressed and fired 21 guns when Betsy boarded with her husband and three sisters at noon the following day. Betsy was very sad to say goodbye to her sisters and parents. Eugenia writes that she has a warm and affectionate friend in her brother-in-law.
On January 14th they set sail for Elba and anchored eight days later. Betsy writes of how upset she is by the floggings aboard ship. They rented a cottage on Elba near Port Ferrajo in mid-February. On July 1st, the ‘Inconstant’ was underway and joined the fleet. Two small cabins had been fitted out for Betsy who enjoyed spending time at sea. Later that month she nearly lost both her husband and Lord Nelson. Under heavy gunfire the signal was given to weigh anchor and join Admiral Nelson and a line of battleships. On July 25th Betsy’s husband was shot through the right arm with two musket balls but luckily it was only a flesh wound and wrapped in a poultice the limb was saved. Nelson was not so lucky and his right arm had to be amputated. This was at the ill-fated Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife against the Spanish. A total of 250 men died and 128 were wounded and of those, two men lost their lives and fifteen were wounded aboard the ‘Inconstant’. Betsy nursed both her injured husband and Nelson on board ship on the way back to England. The ‘Inconstant’ docked at Portsmouth on September 1st. Captain Fremantle and Betsy took lodgings there before renting a cottage at Purlbrook. At the beginning of December they arrived at Stowe to spend Christmas with Lord and Lady Buckingham. ‘On Christmas Day three hundred poor people were fed and on Boxing Day, Lord Buckingham gave supper and a shilling to sixty poor children who could read‘, wrote Betsy. Early in the new-year Betsy and Thomas moved into a rented cottage at Aston Abbots in Buckinghamshire. Their first child, Thomas Francis was born on March 14th 1798. In July, Thomas bought a house at Swanbourne with three fields for 900 guineas which was to be the family home for generations. 1799 brought the birth of a daughter Emma and the death of her mother Camille at her home in Baker Street, London. Christmas was once again spent at Stowe with Lord and Lady Buckingham.