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Matthew Robinson, 2nd Baron Rokeby: Wikis

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Lord Rokeby

Matthew Robinson, 2nd Baron Rokeby (1712 – 30 November 1800) was an English eccentric nobleman who preferred a watery environment to a dry one.

Lord Rokeby was born Matthew Robinson in a Scottish family that had settled in Kent. His family gained the title from King George II. Robinson was educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and became a Fellow there in 1834.[1] He briefly became a Whig and supported the accession of William of Orange. He travelled widely but eventually settled alone near Hythe, Kent.

When his father Septimus Robinson died in 1754, Matthew inherited, among other things, a family estate at Mount Morris near Canterbury. He proceeded to cultivate his estate and represented Canterbury in Parliament. He inherited the title of Lord Rokeby in 1794 after death of his cousin, Richard Robinson, Bishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland.

Lord Rokeby became an enthusiastic supporter of baths during a holiday in the spa town of Aix-la-Chapelle. When he returned to Kent, he began to make daily trips to the seashore to swim in salt water regardless of the weather. He preferred this environment in such an extent that his servant had to persuade him to come home. Sometimes he fainted and had to be rescued. He had a hut built for him on the sands at Hythe and drinking fountains along his route to the beach. He walked all the way and let his servant follow him in the carriage with full livery. If he found people drinking from a fountain, he gave them a half-crown coin.

He also let his beard grow, which was against the contemporary fashion. Eventually it was so thick that it stuck out under his arms and could be seen from behind. In a couple of years he decided to build a swimming pool in his mansion - it was built under glass and was heated by sun. There he spent hours at the time, preferably alone. He refused to have a fire in his house even in the coldest weather.

His increased isolation bred rumors, including one that he was a cannibal or ate only raw meat - when he ate mainly beef tea and nibbled at venison. He also refused to see any doctors. As for church service, he claimed that God was best worshipped at natural altars of the earth, the sea and the sky - not to mention that the sermons were boring.

When Lord Rokeby did indeed agree to accept visitors, he might "entertain" them with lengthy, boring poems. He arranged a sumptuous meal for Prince William of Gloucester but ate very little himself. He very rarely visited the court and then was an embarrassment to his socialite sister, Mrs Elizabeth Montagu. When he stayed at the Chequers Inn at Lenham in 1796 so he could vote in the general election, curious locals took him for a Turk. He never married.

Lord Rokeby died in December 1800; peacefully in his bed on dry land.

References

  1. ^ Robinson, Matthew in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Hales, 2nd Baronet
Thomas Best
Member of Parliament for Canterbury
1747–1761
With: Thomas Best
Sir James Creed
Succeeded by
Thomas Best
Richard Milles
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
Richard Robinson
Baron Rokeby
1794–1800
Succeeded by
Morris Robinson, 3rd Baron Rokeby
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