Paul Frecker
Fine Photographs

Mrs Russell Roberts
31 March 1863

Volume 10, page 142, sitting number 12,937. 

Born in Tasmania between 1834 and 1841 (sources vary), Marguerite Villeneuve Smith was the fourth daughter of Francis Smith, formerly a London merchant of Lindfield in Sussex and latterly of Campania, a township in Tasmania’s Coal River Valley. Her mother, Marie Josephine née Villeneuve of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, was of African descent. Through her mother she was apparently also a descendant of Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, who commanded the French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar. Her paternal grandmother, Amelia Brodbelt, was a former slave variously described as a ‘mulatto’ and a ‘freed coloured woman.’ Her paternal grandfather had been a ship’s carpenter who settled in Nevis.

Her older brother Francis (later Sir Francis Smith) was an Australian lawyer, judge and politician, who served as the fourth Premier of Tasmania from 1857 to 1861. He studied law at the Inner Temple and was called to the Bar in 1842. This is presumably how Marguerite came to meet her husband.

When the census was taken in 1861 she was living with her mother and two older sisters at 23 Westbourne Square, Paddington.

On 9 December 1862 at St Saviour’s in Maida Vale she married Edmund Russell Roberts, who had been called to the Bar at the Inner Temple the previous month.

The couple appear on the 1871 census living at 4 Stanley Gardens in Notting Hill, London, with their daughters Ethel and Winifred and son Francis, aged 2. The marriage later produced two more sons, Frederick and George.

In 1901 the family were living at 65 Bickenhall Mansions, an enormous, red-brick block of flats at the junction of Gloucester Place and Marylbone Road. Edmund Russell Roberts died there suddenly the following year, leaving an estate valued at £13,333.

Marguerite Villeneuve Russell Roberts died on 19 April 1907 at Little Wood, Sunningdale, Berkshire. Her estate was valued at £5938.

Her age at time of death was recorded as 73, which would mean a birth in 1834. According to the age she gave when the census was taken in 1861, she was born in 1837. The age she gave at the time of the 1901 census would have meant a birth in 1841.

code: cs1725
Marguerite Villeneuve Smith, Francis Smith, Sir Francis Smith, Edmund Russell Roberts, Marguerite Villeneuve Russell Roberts, Marguerite Villeneuve Roberts, Camille Silvy, Silvy