Memorial to Dr Durand Rhudde inside East Bergholt Church

Rev Dr Durand Rhudde was grandfather to Maria Bicknell, who later married John Constable. In 1782 he was appointed rector of ‘Brantham-cum-Bergholt. Dr Rhudde was a Cambridge graduate and one of King George III’s Chaplains-in-Ordinary of which there were several acting in an advisory capacity to the king’s chaplain.

  • he was not a wealthy man and his appointment to the Brantham-cum-Bergholt parish was a godsend because it provided him with a modest salary and a free house.
  • his financial fortunes changed when his sister and her wealthy husband died without having any children, leaving their considerable fortune to him. Inheriting all this money enabled the Rev Dr Rhudde to lead a flamboyant lifestyle and hold threats of disinheritance over the rest of the Bicknell/Rhudde family.

Maria's proposed marriage to John Constable

When his grand-daughter Maria announced her intention to marry John Constable, Dr Rhudde strongly objected. He told the Bicknell family that unless they stopped the association between Maria and John Constable, he would disinherit the whole family.  He is said to have objected to the match because Constable did not have sufficient money to keep Maria, but there were other reasons

  • the fact that he had quarreled with John’s father, Golding Constable a few years previously and
  • that the young John Constable was close friends with John Dunthorne, the local artist/glazier/handyman/atheist
  • class – John was born the same year as Jane Austin and so the rural social scene was similar to that Jane describes in her novels.  Maria’s grandfather would have been ‘gentry’ while John Constable’s father, although  wealthy would have been disparaged as a miller and as being rich through  ‘trade’.

In reality such a marriage would not have been approved of by either family.

Seven Year Courtship

The imposed separation of John Constable and Maria  lasted for seven years and led to both Maria and John becoming depressed.  For John, the separation greatly affected his mood swings and this had an adverse effect on his painting.

Maria was very unhappy with the separation from John Constable and the gap which opened up between her and her father, in trying to maintain her relationship with John and remain loyal to her family.  The responsibility of making sure Rev Rhudde’s edict was obeyed and that Maria did not meet with John Constable, fell largely on the shoulders of Maria’s father, Charles Bicknell. Charles was not totally committed to Rhudde’s demands, but gave in to them under the threat of the disinheritance of his children.

Maria's marriage in 1816

In 1816 John and Maria decided they would marry whatever the consequences and were married in London. Rev Dr Rhudde eventually accepted the inevitable and when he died in 1819 he left £4000 of Government Stock to Maria and to each of the Bicknell children.