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The Queen’s Bounty

The British custom of a Royal donation, that came to be known as the “Queen’s Bounty”, was given to mothers who gave birth to three or more babies at one time. Queen Victoria is said to have initiated the grants ‘to enable the parents to meet sudden expenses thrown on them‘ when triplets or quadruplets were born after she and the Prince learned of a poor woman who had recently given birth to triplets while on a visit to Ireland in about 1849. To qualify for the donation, the babies had to born alive and their parents had to be married and British subjects. After Queen Victoria’s death when her son Edward became King of the United Kingdom, the grants were continued as the King’s Bounty.

Childbirth in the nineteenth century was dangerous, both for the mother and the child, and when nature gave parents multiple children at one birth, it was quite uncommon for all to survive as the research into the Queen’s Bounty has revealed.

Scott Triplets

In Tradeston, on 29 September 1854, James Scott, builder of William Street in Tradeston and his wife had three daughters adding to their already large family for a total of eleven children. When her husband was unable to work due to inclement weather, Mrs. Scott wrote to Queen Victoria, begging for assistance. The Queen, after investigating the truth of the claim, sent £5 to the family. Afterwards, some Glasgow gentlemen donated an additional £2 and a wagon of coals to the family.

LIBERALITY OF THE QUEEN.-In September of last year as the wife of a mason, named James Scott, residing in Tradeston, Glasgow, was safely delivered of triplets – all girls – which addition to an already numerous family of eight, straightening still more their hitherto indigent circumstances, were further augmented by the husband being prevented from working owing to the inclemency of the weather. In this condition Mrs Scott penned a letter to the Queen detailing her case, and craving for assistance. Her Majesty, a short time since, caused inquiries to be made as to the truth of the woman’s story, which having been confirmed, after due investigation, by the Inspector of Govan parish, the Queen has forwarded £5 for behoof of the family. Caledonian Mercury - Thursday 01 February 1855

In a sad ending to the happy story, it would seem as though the three children were carried off by smallpox a few years later.

A Warning.—About a year ago the sympathies of the inhabitants of Govan village were drawn to one of those ” triplet” births which usually create much interest in their neighbourhood. The mother, being the wife of a labouring man, refused to have any of her three infants vaccinated, on the plea that she could not afford the trouble. The melancholy effect is that the whole three were recently cut off by smallpox, affording a warning to other parents not to neglect the great boon of vaccination.Dundee, Perth, and Cupar Advertiser - Tuesday 23 November 1858

Bell Triplets

On 6 October 1858 in Ruthwell parish, Richard Bell and his wife Ann Johnston had triplet daughters whom they had christened on the same day. The girls were named Catherine, Margaret Swan and Sarah Jane Bell.

Another Gracious Act of Queen Victoria.— On the 6th of this month, Mrs Richard Bell, residing Burnside, in the parish Ruthwell, was safely delivered of three children—all girls. They are all living, and the mother is doing well. It is also worth recording that in this family of ten children, while thus the three youngest are triplets, the two eldest are twins, a boy and girl. Information having been communicated to her Majesty Queen Victoria of this birth of three children, she has been graciously pleased, through Colonel Phipps, to send Mrs Bell a donation of three pounds, one for each child. Such acts of condescension and kindness the part of the Sovereign are well fitted to strengthen those feelings of attachment to her Majesty’s person and throne which are cherished warmly by the humbler as by the more comfortable classes of her Majesty’s subjects.Dumfries and Galloway Standard - Wednesday 27 October 1858

Spicer Quadruplets

George Spicer’s wife gave birth to four children on 28 October 1889 and his wife, along with three of the children, died that same evening, leaving him with ten children to look after. Spicer’s employer, G. P. Piper, for whom he had worked for over 20 years, set up a subscription in the parish for him, to help lessen the burden. Spicer was known to be a teetotaller and a most deserving man.

THE QUEEN’S BOUNTY. The Queen has seat £5 to man named George Spicer, labourer, at Great Hormead, Hertfordshire, whose wife gave birth to four children recently. The mother three children have died, and the husband is left with ten children, the oldest of whom ie only fifteen years of age.Cheltenham Chronicle - Saturday 23 November 1889

Turner Triplets

James and Alice Turner of New North Road in Rastrick, Yorkshire had triplets in late August 1893. Unfortunately the three girls, Edith, Ethel and Florence all died shortly after birth. The couple had previously had two sets of twins: Elise Ann and Ernest James were born in 1887 and Alice and Minnie were born in 1889.

A CANDIDATE FOR THE QUEEN’S BOUNTY. NINE CHILDREN AT FOUR BIRTHS. A notable case of excessive fecundity has occurred Rastrick, near Halifax woman named Turner, wife of factory operative, has this week given birth to triplets, two of which are doing well, but the third died shortly after birth. Three previous occasions Mrs. Turner has had twins. All three children this last occasion were females.Sheffield Evening Telegraph - Friday 01 September 1893

Brierley Triplets

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triplets
Pendlebury Christ Church L164/1/1/4

Ancestry

On 10 April 1893, Peter and Elizabeth Brierley of Oak Street had triplets in Pendlebury, Lancashire. Two of the babies were boys and were named Henry and John and the third child, a girl, was named Annie.

QUADRUPLETS AND TRIPLETS Monday the wife working man, named Abraham Asliworth, of Market-street, New Mills, was safely delivered four children, two of each sex. One child was dead, but the other children and the mother are doing well. The wife of Peter Brierley, carter, Pendlebury, Monday gave birth to three children, two sons and a daughter. Both mother and infants are doing well. Application is to be made for the Queen’s bounty. Derby Daily Telegraph - Tuesday 11 April 1893

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JohnBrierley-burial
Pendlebury Christ Church, L164/1/3/3

Ancestry

Sadly, John Brierley died at eight days old and was buried on 20 April 1893 but the family still received £2 from the Queen.

The Queen’s Bounty.—Replying to a Pendlebury application for the Queen’s bounty on behalf of Mrs. Brierley, a carter’s wife, who recently gave birth three children, General Sir Henry Ponsonby states that cases are only eligible for the £3 donation from the Queen where the three children survive. One of the Brierleys’ children had since died. command of her Majesty, however, Sir Henry forwards a charitable donation to Mrs. Brierley of £2. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 06 May 1893

Henry Brierley did not survive either and died at the age of six months and was buried on 14 October 1893.

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HenryBrierley-burial
Pendlebury Christ Church, L164/1/3/3

Ancestry

Davies Quadruplets

Four babies named Elizabeth, Margaret Elizabeth, Mary Ann and William John were delivered to Hannah Davies in June of 1893. All survived.

QUEEN’S BOUNTY WANTED. On Saturday Mrs. Hannah Davies, wife of labourer, living near Cardigan, gave birth to four children, three girls and a boy. All are doing we’ll. Mrs. Davies, who is young woman, had previous occasion been delivered of twins, and she is now the mother twelve.Portsmouth Evening News - Monday 12 June 1893

Dixon Quadruplets

In 1899, a Ryhope couple John George Dixon and Agnes Annie Dixon of Smith street, the proud parents of four children took action against the doctor who delivered their babies for photographing them and selling the photographs for profit.

FOUR AT A BIRTH. THE BABIES PHOTOGRAPH. ACTION AGAINST A RYHOPE DOCTOR. At the Sunderland County Court yesterday before His Honour Judge Meynell, John George Dixon, draper’s assistant, and his wife, Agnes Annie Dixon, of Smith street, Ryhope, sued Dr. De Wytt, of Ryhope, for the delivery of six photographs, or in default £15, together with £5 for the risk, annoyance, and trouble that they had been put to by the defendant. The female plaintiff stated that on May 31 last she was delivered of four children, three girls and a boy, and was attended by the defendant. Defendant told her it was a very remarkable case; that the like had never s happened in Ryhope before, and that in all probability would never happen again. He told her that the children would not live, in and that she had better have them photographed before they were dead. He said that it would be the only thing they would have to remember them by, and that unless she had a photograph no one would ever believe she ever had them. In consequence of his persuasions she agreed to let a photographer come into her bedroom to take her and the four babies. The latter were placed in an arm-chair and on the table. Next day defendant returned and told her that the photograph was smudged, and that she had better have them taken again. Witness agreed on the understanding that the defendant would supply her with half a dozen copies. To this defendant agreed, and the photographer was admitted a second time. She felt the strain and soon after went into delirium. Not long afterwards they heard that copies of the photographs were being shown in the village. Witness’s husband immediately asked the defendant when they were going to get theirs. Defendant said he was very sorry, but the photographer had broken the negative, and he therefore could not fulfil his promise. The male plaintiff corroborated. He denied that he ever wanted to enter into an arrangement with the photographer to supply him with a large number of photographs for purposes of sale. A lot of his friends wanted a photograph, and not being able to afford to give them one, he agreed to get them one upon payment. Dr. De Wytt admitted having arranged to photograph the children, but he denied having promised the plaintiff half a dozen photographs. He got to know that plaintiff wanted to sell the photographs, and he at once put a stop to it. He regarded the sale of the photographs as reflecting upon his professional conduct. He got the Queen’s Bounty for the children. In cross examination, witness said that the negatives were not destroyed, but that they were in his possession. His Honour found for the plaintiffs for £6 6s, to be reduced to 1s if the photographs were delivered within seven days. Plaintiffs’ solicitor (Mr Bolton) asked for the delivery of the photographs without any alternative being given to the defendant. His Honour said that he saw no reason why the plaintiffs should not have the photographs, and he would therefore find for them for £15, or the delivery of six photographs within 14 days.Northern Echo - Thursday 17 August 1899

1957 – Bounty Discontinued

The Royal Bounty for multiple births continued until 1957, after which parents only received a congratulatory letter from the monarch. Congratulatory messages were abandoned completely in February of 1995.

  1. Hi ,
    I discovered this article in the
    Alnwick Mercury in 1869
    Triplets
    The wife of Mr Mark Douglas of Dunstan Steads, who was recently confined of three daughters, has received, through Dr Graham, a present of £3 from Her Majesty.
    Alnwick Mercury April 26th 1869
    May I use some information from your website to exlain the origin of this gift.
    Kindest Regards,
    John Yearnshire

      1. Much obliged I will send you a copy of my publication with the suitable credits to your organisation.

        John Yearnshire

  2. My grandmother gave birth to triplets, in England, around 1910. Looking for legal documentation of these birth and have not been successful. She received the bounty award. Family history relates the birth, not the gender. Do you have any suggestions for identification?

    1. Hi Arlene,
      If the births happened in England in 1910, you should be able to search for them at the GRO and even request a PDF version of the birth record for, I believe, £4. The GRO index will also show the gender. Also, triplets were probably big news. I would search for an article in the newspaper.

  3. Thank you for an interesting article. I am conducting research on my family history and have in my possession a letter from a great uncle, Vernon Kerwin, in which he tells my father of how his grandmother (Catherine Gavin, nee Welton, 1848-1913) received a Queen’s Bounty after she had given birth to quadruplets in Brantford, Ontario in about 1874. In his letter, my great uncle states that his mother recounted how her mother had received a bounty of 50 pounds and that he, himself, saw the plaque shortly after his grandmother’s death in 1913. “From that day on, I never saw the plaque again and I do not know what happened to it. I do know that Mother stated that grandma was terribly embarrassed by the multiple birth, which was the first time anything like that had happened in Canada. She never wanted it mentioned and it never was.”
    I have conducted a cursory search for records pertaining to the birth of the quadruplets and am currently attempting to find baptism and interment records for the quadruplets. There is no mention of the births in the local newspaper, the Brantford Expositor nor have I found any civil registration of the births or deaths. Would you have any suggestions as to what other leads I might pursue? I would think that there must be some record of bounties that were given and, if so, where can they be found?
    Thank you for your time and any assistance that you might be able to provide.
    Michael Kerwin

    1. Have you seen this article from the Sarnia Historical Society? It would appear that the application for the bounty was to the Privy Council so I’m wondering if any records might exist in the National Archives in the UK. (I also did a search in the Globe and Mail archives as well as Chronicling America with no results.)

  4. This article is fascinating and very helpful. My mother-in-law’s mother was a triplet born in Spitalfields in 1910. Her family received the King’s Bounty, but two of the babies later died.

  5. I am asking for some help. I am researching my family tree and I am gathering as much information as possible about my grandmother. she had triplets in the 1950s they only lived for a day and she always spoke about receiving a bounty from the queen she always said she wished she had the paperwork that she received with the money. I would love to know how I can go about finding anything about this because she was always sad talking about it because she said she gave birth at home because she didn’t realise she was having triplets until she went into labour. if anyone can help id be so grateful thanks

    1. Are you able to share the geographical area for your grandmother? That would help with determining available sources. Also her name assuming she is deceased. Please don’t post if she is still living.

  6. Hi
    I am completing a book form on our family Tree and came upon mentioning of this Queens Bounty. Came to your site upon googling “Queen Victorias Bounty”.

    My 2nd Great Grandparents McComb, from Aughnamullen, Monaghan, Ireland had mention of this in their Obituary.

    They had 10 children of which there were one son born then 3 sets of twins, (mixed genders) then a daughter and the last another set of twins, who all survived and migrated to Australia.

    first set was born 1869 then, 1872, 1875 and lastly 1884

    I note your site only mentions Triplets. Do you know where I could find information on the Bounty for the 4 sets of twins. they only got this Bounty after the 4th set was born. Not for each individual set.

    Regards
    cynthia

    1. I found this, not your ancestors, but another similar case: ” TWINS THREE TIMES IN SUCCESSION.—The wife of an agricultural labourer named Lamble, residing in the parish of Harberton, near Totnes, gave birth, on Christmas Day, to twins, for the third time in succession. The poor woman is in very delicate health, has had ten children, eight of whom are living and, although not entitled to the Queen’s bounty, the case is deserving the sympathy and consideration of the charitable.—-Western Morning News. [From Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette – Saturday 07 January 1871] I can’t seem to find anything about 4 sets of twins in the newspapers (quite extraordinary!) to support the idea of the Queen’s Bounty being given for multiple sets of twins. I did find this in The World’s News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 – 1955) Sat 31 May 1919 Page 12 “SIX SETS OF TWINS. THE King was recently informed that a Mrs. Dowinton, a resident in Guernsey (one of the Channel Islands), had given birth to six sets of twins in eleven years and had ten other children. Eighteen of this remarkable family are living, and the case was recommended for special notice. His Majesty, seeing that the record was so remarkable and the case of the family a deserving one, sent a donation. The Royal act has been wrongly described as the granting of the King’s bounty. The bounty is claimable only in the case of triplets.” I wonder if your great-grandparents were given a donation from the crown which they mistook for the Royal Bounty?

      1. Hi Barbara
        I have recently received a copy of the Ledger for the Queen Victoria Bounties which shows where Mary McComb received 4 pounds on the 15th August, 1884 – 3 months
        after the birth of her 4th set of twins. There are several pages of this Ledger and if you would like a copy I could email to you if you would like.

          1. To all those looking for a copy of the ledger for their own families, the collection appears to be held by The National Archives in Kew in the series PMG 27.

  7. My father was the only surviving (but now deceased) triplet born in Liverpool England in 1924, I have been researching my family history and came across local news paper articles published at the time. The short articles mentioned my Grandmother would be applying for the King’s Bounty, I had never heard of this before and spent a whole afternoon searching the internet before finding your informative site, so thank you so much. It would be interesting to know the value of the grant, if it was a standard amount or if it varied with the recipient’s circumstances. I have a photograph taken shortly after the birth of a man , not my Grandfather, sitting holding the three infants with my Grandmother standing next to him, family gossip is that he was a local politician possibly the M.P. posing for some publicity.
    The Liverpool Echo recently published a request from somebody asking for help identifying a set of triplets shown in a family photograph he had of his Great Grandmother holding three babies, she was the midwife who delivered the triplets, I was able to help with positively identifying the family by comparing the ornaments on a sideboard in the background of the photograph he had with photographs in my possession taken from the same position. I have found the same photograph in the newspaper articles mentioned above, now I will continue the search to identify the local politician as the photograph could be one that was published in the local press at the time.

  8. My 2nd Great Grandparents received the “Queen Victoria Bounty” not for triplets or quads etc but because they had 3 sets of twins in a row and then later had another set. But I have never found out what the Bounty was exactly

  9. My 2nd Great Grandparents received the “Queen Victoria Bounty” not for triplets or quads etc but because they had 3 sets of twins in a row and then later had another set. But I have never found out what the Bounty was exactly . The Twin sets were born in 1869, 1872, 1875 and of course the last set in 1884. [their first born child was in 1866 – then the 3 sets fo twins – another child in 1877 and the final set of twins]

  10. I’m wondering how to find information regarding my paternal grandfather who apparently had a aunt who received the “queens bounty”, my grandpa and grandma used to say his aunt had 24 kids and that is why she received the help. I have no idea how to find out information on this. I have no idea which relative this would have been or what year. any idea where I would start? I have be doing ancestry however have not come across any relatives, so far, having had that many children.

    thank you for your help.

    1. Sometimes family stories get exaggerated through the generations, like a game of ‘broken telephone’, although there is usually at least an element of truth. My own 3x great-grandmother was said to have had ‘twice 22 children’. It was, I believe, meant to be a joke. Rather than 44 children which would have been impossible, she had 22 children, one died, then she had another, making 22 a second time. I still haven’t figured out how the story originated but I’m pretty sure that she actually had 15 children. There are a few gaps where there might have been other children who didn’t survive, but 22 seems highly unlikely.
      I would try searching the newspaper archives for any surnames in your family along with a suitable keyword. Example: < +Anderson +birth > and see if anything pops up.

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