Disappointing duel

Richard Godson was a busy man.  He was a barrister who made his name by defending a group of 10 carpet weavers in Kidderminster accused of rioting.  He secured several acquittals and had the charges reduced in other cases.  So when Kidderminster became a Parliamentary constituency in 1832, the citizens invite him to stand as their candidate, and he accepted.

It is not clear how he first met Captain Edward Stone Cotgrave of the Royal Navy, but it may have been at around this time, when Cotgrave is known to have attended the Worcestershire Hunt ball, where Godson would certainly have wanted to canvas votes.

But for all his brilliance, Godson could show a remarkable lack of judgement, and in February 1839, he made the mistake of referring to a colleague in decidedly uncomplimentary terms.  He addressed a letter to a fellow MP, Captain Henry Winnington, and published it in a local paper called the Ten Towns Messenger.  Godson had the impression that Winnington had said something unpleasant about him, and he replied that: “I prefer being a fallen man to a ‘degraded gentleman’”.  Willington took great offence and demanded to know “unequivocally” whether the phrase was intended to refer to him personally.

Godson knew he had been rash and in the nineteenth century, these kind of words might lead to a duel.  Winnington appointed Edward Cotgrave as his second, but Godson was not ready to fight.  Rather he needed to climb down with dignity.  Cotgrave acted as intermediary and Godson wrote him a letter, with a kind of half apology.  He admitted he was not justified in saying what he had, but excused himself as having been under the influence of “strongly excited feelings”.

It was not entirely clear that Winnington was completely content, but the matter seems to have been dropped.  Captain Cotgrave went back to attending balls and his fifteen minutes of fame in what could have been a violent quarrel between two members of Parliament was over.

History of Parliament
Berrow’s Worcester Journal
13 Dec 1832, 30 Jan 1834
Staffordshire Gazette and County Standard 13 Feb 1839
Worcestershire Chronicle 7 Feb 1839, 14 Feb 1839
Godson, D. (2018) The Honourable Counsel, CreateSpace.

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