The Belvedere Story

Belvedere House Robert Rochfort


The family associated with the strange story surrounding the Jealous Wall and Belvedere House were the Rochforts. A very old and influential family who came to Ireland during the 13th century.  Robert Rochfort, later to become the 1st Earl of Belvedere was a Member of Parliament for Westmeath.  He married Mary Molesworth, talented and known in the theatrical circles of Dublin.  Robert Rochfort was well-known for his selfish qualities, but under constant pressures particularly from her own family, Mary reluctantly gave her consent and they were married on August 1st 1736. 
After the marriage the couple settled at Gaulstown House, his family home.

Jealous Wall

Nearby was Bellfield, the home of Roberts younger brother, Arthur.  There was much commuting between the houses which continued until the tragic events of later years.  For some reason, which has never been satisfactorily explained, Lady Belvedere was openly opposed by her brother -in- law George Rochfort.  The staff in Gaulstown were undoubtedly accomplices to this intrigue, and the Earl's wife suspected that she was being constantly watched.  Seeking comfort and companionship to compensate for her unenviable position, she found a friendly welcome at the home of Arthur Rochfort.  In 1737 a daughter Jane was born to Mary Rochfort and the haughty Lord Belvedere was disappointed.  His absence from home increased, and the young wife found herself isolated by his coldness and neglect.  In due course a son was born and Lord Belvedere celebrated the birth of the Heir in magnificent fashion. Lady Belvedere

This renewed affection for his wife was short-lived and soon the Earl was back in his old haunts of Dublin and London.  Rural or domestic life held no attractions for him, but Lady Belvedere found the tranquility of Gaultown charming.  She gave her children all the attentions a mother could bestow, but because of her artistic temperament, she yearned for the company of her peers which had been a source of mutual appreciation during her life in Dublin.  This led to her increasing dependence on Belfield House and the company of Arthur Rochfort and his wife, Sarah.  Two more sons were born to her - but the earl showed little interest in them.  His visits had become by this time, rare and stormy occurrences.  The malicious gossip of some of the household particularly that of the woman who had previously held his affections had poisoned Robert against his wife.  He charged Mary with being unfaithful to him naming Arthur, his brother, as the partner.  His brother George is said to have been a witness to the accusation, and in the possession of the alleged love letters.  The accused brother, respected widely, was shocked.  The pity and concern which had been shown to Lady Belvedere was now being construed as a cover-up for an affair.  To add to his consternation and to the horror of his wife, Lady Belvedere admitted the charge brought by her husband.  Some accounts state that it was obtained by force, and that she brought by her husband.  Some accounts state that it was obtained by force and that she never confessed freely to misconduct.  Another account states that Mary Rochfort received her husbands accusations with horror and anger, but on the advice of some of her friends that an admission of her guilt would strengthen her grounds for a divorce she succumbed.  Her enraged husband locked her up in a garret in Gaulstown forbidding any communication with her family or even the servants.

Garrett In Gaulstown

Arthur Rochforts absence abroad precluded the possibility of Lord Belvederes divorce and condemned lady Belvedere to her fate at the hands of her outrage husband had destroyed her own future, and placed the lives of her friends in jeopardy.  Lord belvedere pursued his brother, making no secret of his intention of shooting him on sight.  With his wife imprisoned in Gaulstown House the Earl settled in his new home, Belvedere House on the shores of Lough Ennell.  It was thought of as a more suitable residence for the Earl who was considered as a monarch of all he surveyed.

The years passed and Lady Belvedere submitted herself to her fate. On his occasional visits to Gaulstown his wife was kept indoors.  The customary precautions were once relaxed with disastrous results when Lady Belvedere came face to face with her husband who was accompanied by his brother, George, her old enemy.  She pleaded for some relief from her dreadful imprisonment, if only the company of the fellow beings and spoke of the hardship of her lot which was plainly visible in her careworn face, aged years before her time.  Even the revenging heart of Robert was moved, but not that malignant mind of his brother, George who advised against any relinquishing of the prison state. The Earl decided that no further incident of this sort would ever happen again.  Subsequently his presence at Gaulstown was always signalled by the constant ringing of the bell by the servant who accompanied Lady Belvedere in the grounds of the estate and so warned any meeting between the estranged couple was avoided.
Just a short distance from Belvedere, George Rochfort built a mansion (Tudenham) considerably larger than Belvedere.

Tudenham HouseRelations between the two brothers were strained and rapidly becoming worse.  It seemed that George was no longer the confidant of his neighboring brother, and that the earl himself was now a victim of the same malice and vindictiveness which had earlier destroyed his imprisoned wife.
In 1757, Arthur Rochfort returned. This time he was arrested and sued for adultery.  Unable to pay the extensive damages of £20,000 he was imprisoned. Marshalsea Prison

After the trial, Lord Belvedere turned his attention towards his neighbour, George. Between Belvedere   and Rochfort he built a Gothic Ruin, since called the Jealous Wall which completely blocked the view of one house from the other.  The plight of Lady Mary Rochfort, who was more closely guarded than ever, deteriorated. She spent most of her time in the picture gallery of Gaulstown, constantly inquiring about her family.  Her appearance became more haggard and it may have been this fact which gave rise to the rumor that she was insane.  Many people at the time felt sympathy for the Earl, doomed by marriage ties to a madwoman.  He however showed little of this grief himself in the boisterous living and luxury of his Belvedere Home. After the death of the Earl of Belvedere in 1774, his wife was released.  Not only had her features become old and haggard but she had acquired a wild, scared, unearthly look, whilst the tones of her voice, which nearly exceeded a whisper, were harsh, agitated and uneven.  She ended her days in peace in the home of her daughter, Lady Lanesborough and on her death bed confirmed with solemn oath her innocence of the offence which had led to her captivity. Today, from the terraces of Belvedere House, only the ruins of George Rochforts mansion at Tudenham are visible through the Gothic arches of the folly the Jealous Wall. It stands as a silent witness to the past feeling of hatred and malice which the neighboring brothers shared for each other and also a grim reminder for the woman so cruelly treated by them both.
With acknowledgement to Leo Daly Mullingar

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