The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Rosa Laura Caldecott, 1843?-1890

Nationality: British
Date of Birth: 1843?
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1890
Place of Death:


She was born Rose Laura Gateley. On 8 July 1870 she married Thomas Caldecutt in West Derby, Lancaster. She became the mistress of F. R. Leyland. On 28 May 1875 Thomas Caldicutt intiated divorce proceedings, citing Leyland as commiting adultery, but he did not proceed with the case.

It has been speculated, incorrectly, that she was the wife of Randolph Caldecott, illustrator and watercolourist.


Rosa Caldecutt, after separating from her husband, lived at Denham Lodge on Hammersmith Road from 1875 to 1884. Her son Frederick Richards Leyland Caldecutt was born there in 1883. She attempted to obtain maintenance from Leyland for her child until her death in 1890. In October 1887 she threatened to horsewhip Leyland! On 19 December 1889, when she was living at 12 New Burlington Street, she made her last Will and Testament; she died there the following year.

Further children appear to have been born to Leyland. One, presumably Leyland's, called Frederick Richards Wooster, was born on 21 September 1884 (Annie Ellen Wooster was living at Godwyn Lodge, Dover); and a second, Francis George Leyland Wooster was born on 19 January 1890.

Val Prinsep (who married Frances Leyland in 1884, and was not entirely unprejudiced) described Rosa as an 'unhappy lady' who had attempted to deceive Leyland and his family. Following the death of Leyland in 1892, Prinsep informed the attorney general Lord Charles Russell, who was attempting to raise funds to help Rosa's orphaned son, that Leyland had not accepted that the child was his: 'indeed the whole history of his conception & birth is so miraculous that it cannot be wondered at that a man of the world should have the gravest doubts.'

Rosa Caldecutt was also known to JW. During his time in Venice, Leyland and Caldecutt had visited his studio in the White House and had seen the satirical paintings The Gold Scab (YMSM 208)and The Loves of the Lobsters (YMSM 209) (#01049).


Merrill, Linda, The Peacock Room. A Cultural Biography, New Haven and London, 1998.

Divorce proceedings, Thomas Caldecutt vs Rosa Laura Caldecutt, 28 May 1875; Birth, Death and Marriage records, Family record Office.