Viscount Combermere began by renting his house in Cheshire to Sisi and ended up one of her close hunting companions for two seasons. The rental arose when Empress Elisabeth’s Secretary Karl Linger contacted his former boss Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn to seek help finding a base for hunting. Viscount Combermere was staying with his close friend Sir Watkin and agreed to rent Combermere Abbey to Sisi for the hunting season.
Wellington Henry Stapleton Cotton, Second Viscount Combermere was born in Barbados, the son of military hero Sir Stapleton Cotton who fought with the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsula Campaign and who captured Bhurtpore (Bharatpur) in Rajasthan in 1826.
The Second Viscount joined the army in 1837, served in Canada in 1840, became a captain in the Life Guards in 1846 and was made a colonel in 1862, retiring from military service four years later. He was elected as Conservative M P for Carrickfergus in Ireland in 1847 and served for 10 years. His father died in 1865 and Viscount Combermere took up his seat in the House of Lords.
In 1844 Combermere had married Susan Alice, the eldest daughter of Sir George Sitwell. They had four children, some of whom went hunting with Sisi.
Viscount Combermere was an accomplished gentleman rider and he won several steeplechases while in the army. A daring rider, he was a keen member of both Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn’s hounds and the Cheshire Hunt. The Cheshire Observer (12 December 1891) said: ‘Some 40 years ago there was no name better known in Cheshire than that of Wellington Cotton, an officer in the Life Guards, and M.P. for Carriokfergus in the days when Irishmen voted for gentlemen and men of honour. He was … a true sportsman, moreover, and second to none in geniality and good-fellowship. An excellent landlord in after life; he was greatly attached to his tenants, and they to him … (and) as a judge of horses the late lord was almost unrivalled’.
He died from a heart attack while recovering from an accident. He was buried near Combermere Abbey in Wrenbury Church, the village from which he and Sisi had gone hunting together.
Attribution Leslie Ward [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons