I hope you enjoy it as much as I did
Born on 18 May 1792 in Guernsey, as a child, living in Le Pollet, St Peter Port, Guernsey, Margaret Harvey survived a fall down the stairs, which left her concussed for three days. She was the eldest of eight children.
Neve, as she would become, could remember the turmoil that the French Revolution brought to Guernsey. In 1807, Neve set sail for Weymouth with her father, who was involved in merchant shipping and privateering, but a storm caused the ship to land at Chesil Beach. She was educated in Bristol, England, gaining an interest in literature and poetry. In 1815 she went to a "finishing school" in Brussels, becoming fluent in French, Italian and able to converse in German and Spanish. She would read the New Testament in Greek
Visiting the battlefield of Waterloo, shortly after the battle, with her headmistress, once the corpses had been buried, she picked up souvenirs which she showed to Prussian Field Marshal Blucher, whom she met, when presented to him in London.
Neve met with Charles François Dumouriez, a general of the French Revolutionary Wars, who dubbed her la spirituelle.
Her father John Harvey, who was born in Cornwall in 1771, died on 4 December 1820 at the age of 45, leaving his widow Elizabeth with her remaining children to live in 'Chaumière', a cottage he had bought in 1808. John (1793) married in 1826 and moved to Jersey, then England. Elizabeth (1796) never married. Maria (1799) and Augusta (1801) had died as infants. Thomas (1803) emigrated to the United States. Augusta (1804) married and Louisa (1805) died in 1821.
Margaret married John Neve, born 1779, from Tenterden, Kent, in St Peter Port (Town) church on 18 January 1823. On their honeymoon, they visited the Waterloo battlefield. She lived in England for 25 years of marriage, but returned to Guernsey in 1849 after his death at Tenterden. They did not have any children.
Neve's mother, Elizabeth Harvey (née Guille), died in 1871 at the age of 99.
The census for 1871 shows Margaret A. Neve (78) living with her sister Elizabeth Harvey (73) living at 'Chaumière', Rouge Huis, St Peter Port, Guernsey. (RG10-5765-222-1) Neve travelled abroad to various countries with her sister. Their last trip was in 1872, when they visited the Polish city of Krakow.
On 18 May 1899 a reception was held at Rouge Huis to celebrate her 107th birthday and her entrance into her 108th year. The town council, jurats, the officers of the staff, and about 250 of the leading residents attended. Despite her age, Margaret was found making marmalade the next morning by a reporter from The Times. She was reported as never being ill until the age of 105, when she had the flu, followed by bronchitis at 108. At the age of 110, she climbed a tree to pluck an apple, explaining that they were much tastier when eaten straight from the tree.
A newspaper report records that she enjoyed a glass and a half of old sherry at lunchtime and a weak whiskey and water at supper. She was in the habit of always rising early and abstaining from eating and drinking between meal times.
The Priaulx Library, Guernsey ,collection includes many travel journals, including Mrs Neve’s honeymoon diaries, which describe the places she visited, including the battlefield of Waterloo, 8 years after the conflict. As she passed 100, her fame began to grow; international newspapers published articles about her on several occasions, including the New York Times. There is correspondence between the Royal Household and the Harvey family on the subject of Mrs Neve:
The Honourable Charlotte Knollys
Rouge Huis Guernsey
6th July 1901
We are very sensible of the honor Her Majesty the Queen has done Mrs Neve, in permitting a telegram of congratulation to be sent for her birthday. She entered her 110th year on 18th May last. But we are deeply concerned that Her Majesty should have been troubled by a stranger, who did not even know Mrs Neve’s name.
We replied by telegram yesterday to 'Lines, Yoxford,'—in the belief that we were doing so to an agent of 'The Queen' newspaper,—being misled by a very inaccurate telegram. The newspaper cutting from 'The News' enclosed in a letter from the Revd M. D. Lines, today, is altogether inaccurate.
Mrs Neve has now no memory. She had not the honor of having received a message from Queen Victoria on any birthday. She still enjoys her health, and often looks gratefully at the photograph near her armchair, sent her on 4th May 1896, through the Revd Percy de Putron, West Newton Parsonage, by the Queen; signed by herself expressly for the Old Lady.
Again entreating you to express the concern of Mrs Neve’s family, for this intrusion upon Her Most Gracious Majesty, and thanking Her for Her continued kindness
I am Dear Madam
Louisa M Harvey
Enclosed aunt’s last photo, and autograph, also one of her last birthday return thanks cards.
Pall Mall, S.W.
12th July 1901
I submitted you letter to the Queen; and I am now commanded by Her Majesty to thank you very much for it: and also for the photograph of Mrs Neve, which you so kindly forwarded with the same, for Her acceptance.
I am indeed sorry that the Queen should have been misinformed about Mrs Neve, and I am much obliged to you
The Hon Charlotte Knollys
HMY Victoria & Albert
Rouge Huis, Guernsey
July 17th 1902
Mrs Neve’s photograph, taken on Monday—namely two months after entering her 111th year—has come out so well that we are venturing to send you a copy for our most glorious Queen;
With most sincere wishes for the King’s complete restoration to health, from His Majesty’s Oldest Subject and her family.
I am dear Madam
Louisa M. Harvey.
The Priaulx Library has cuttings kept by the family that show how Mrs Neve became famous enough to generate her own mythology, newspapers from Chicago and Toronto claiming that Queen Victoria always sent her a birthday card (negated by the above correspondence) and that the Queen even had a portrait of her hanging at Osborne House.
Neve died on 4 April 1903 at age 110.
Flags in Guernsey were lowered to half mast as a show of respect.