All right-thinking people are avid students of events in the Diocese of Barchester; and I know that, for many, there are few more popular families in the Close than the Stanhopes. Dr Vesey Stanhope "held a prebendal stall in the diocese ... He had resided in Italy for twelve years. His first going there had been attributed to a sore throat; and that sore throat, though never repeated in any violent manner, had stood him in such stead, that it had enabled him to live in easy idleness ever since."
The satire is cruel; but it seems to have been true that many Regency gentry, not excluding the clerical, did indeed find that their health repeatedly drove them to warmer climes. Indeed, as late as the 1960s, it was said that you could find the entire bench of Church of England bishops by the shores of Lake Como on Low Sunday (currently, given the C of E's financial crisis, the Church Commissioners are, I am confident, busily negotiating cheap episcopal package deals at Ayia Napa).
And so it was with Sir Harry. He was wealthy enough not to need an income; the bishop who had ordained him collated him to a prebendal stall (canonry) in 1789; and he subsequently received, in succession, two livings which were in the gift of the Bishop of Exeter (Cornwall had not yet been split off into a Diocese of Truro). But an "act of parliament [was] passed obliging the clergy to a residence, which his health would not permit him to undertake to keep, having been more than once under the necessity of resorting to another climate for its restoration". He resigned his benefice in 1804 but retained his prebendal stall, which did not tie him down to residence. Which "other clime" he then sought is not clear, since all parts of the continent may not have been equally accessible, during the Buonapartist disorders, to English visitors (according to Wikipedia, Napoleon ordered, on 22 May 1803, the arrest of all British males between the agesof 18 and 60).
According to Our Lady of Light (1953) by Fr Cyril Wilson, Sir Harry "having come in contact with the Catholic Church, through giving constant hospitality to French emigre bishops and priests ... was eventually received into the Church." Contemporary evidence gives the date of his conversion as 1810, when he finally resigned his Stall. So his time spent with French clergy wouod have been in the first decade of the century.
As for the emigre French clergy, we shall consider one of them at a later stage in this enquiry. It is certainly true that after the Revolution very many French clergy had sought refuge in this country, followed in the 1790s by religious communities fleeing Flanders. The Channel Islands were stuffed with refugee clergy, and Bath was full of such emigres, some of whom made a very favourable impression upon the ton; the burial yard at Lanherne in Cornwall contains a couple of them who were sent there to chaplain the nuns (strange that Jane Austen never mentions all those interesting aliens). So Wilson's account does fit. It would be good to know where he got his information from. If anybody knows ...
"Lady Trelawny did not follow her husband's example in joining the Ch. of Rome." She was to die, in Trelawny House, in 1822, and is buried, with other Trelawnys, in the nearby parish Church of Pelynt. So it may be presumed that she did not accompany her husband in foreign travels. It appears that Sir Harry's household was managed by his eldest daughter Miss (Ann[e] Letitia [no relative]) Trelawny. She may have found that the arrangement suited her; readers will recall that Miss (Charlotte) Stanhope "had encouraged her mother in her idleness, in order that she herself might be mistress of the Stanhope household". But Miss Trelawny, unlike Miss Stanhope, was not a latitudinarian. According to Wilson, she had preceded her father into the Catholic Church; she seems to have been a robust Churchwoman.
So they all lived happily ever after ... except that after Sir Harry became a Catholic, a very grave sacramental problem arose which was not to be resolved for another two decades.
To be continued.