Macarthur, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Macarthur

Elizabeth Macarthur (1766-1850), was born in Devon, where her parents equipped her to manage complicated affairs, vital skills after she married John Macarthur in 1788. Their first son Edward was born before they sailed in 1789 to join the NSW Corps. A daughter born at sea did not survive. In Sydney she bore four more sons, James (died young), John, James (again) and William, and three daughters, Elizabeth, Mary and Emmeline.
While John schemed, blustered and prospered, Elizabeth created a miraculously happy and orderly home at Elizabeth Farm, delighting in the country: ‘The greater part of the country is like an English park, and the trees give to it the appearance of a wilderness, or shrubbery commonly attached to the habitations of people of fortune’. In 1806 her guests shared that vision, when they compared their picnic site with the picturesque German spa resort, Bad Pyrmont. That picnic seems to be Elizabeth’s only connection with our Pyrmont. (Her daughter Mary married a surgeon, James Bowman, creating another incidental connection.)
Life changed in 1809 when John sailed (again) to England. For eight years Elizabeth took charge of his merinos, his Camden Park estate and its convicts. After John’s return however, his depression and paranoia deepened, and their once-harmonious relationship frayed. By the time he died (in 1834) he – a minority of one – could no longer tolerate her company.