Robert Baddeley died on 20th November 1794. It may seem somewhat surprising that he is still remembered more than two centuries later because as an actor he played only minor roles during his thirty years at Drury Lane with Garrick and Sheridan. It is his Will however, that has kept his name to the fore over two centuries.
He left a bequest to provide a Twelfth Night cake, wine and punch to be enjoyed every year by the company in residence at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and this wonderful old custom has survived. The Baddeley Cake ceremony takes place every January 6th.
As a young man, Baddeley was a cook and worked in the kitchens of the well known actor manager Samuel Foote. There he acquired a passion for the theatre and in 1760, when he was 27 years old, he became an actor.
As Moses in
"The School for Scandal
He joined David Garrick's company at Drury Lane and remained there, as a successful character actor, for the rest of his life.
He continued under Sheridan's management after Garrick's retirement and is probably best remembered as the original Moses in The School for Scandal. Baddeley enjoyed something of a reputation as a dandy, and it was said 'loved as great variety in his amours as in his clothes'.
On the 24th of January 1764, at St. Margaret's Church, Westminster he married the eighteen year old Sophia Snow, daughter of the King George II's trumpeter, Valentine Snow, who was a witness at the ceremony.
Sophia Baddeley was to become one of the most popular and controversial stage personalities of her time. For Baddeley, however, married life proved to be tumultuous and unhappy because of his wife's extraordinary beauty, vanity and recklessness.
She first appeared at Drury Lane in 1764 and soon became a favourite performer.
In 1770, Baddeley was involved in a bloodless duel with George Garrick, David Garrick's brother and assistant at Drury Lane, over the reputed escapades of Mrs Baddeley. Soon afterwards they separated and in his latter years Baddeley lived with Catherine Sherry and after her death with Catherine Strickland.
Robert Baddeley died in the early hours of 20th November 1794, at his house in New Store Street. According to The Times "He was seized with a fit on the stage... in performing the character of Moses in The School for Scandal" but other versions say that he was taken ill whilst dressing for the part in his room. He was buried in the churchyard of the Actors' Church, St. Paul's, Covent Garden.
The Actors' Church, St Paul's, Covent Garden
In his Will of 23rd April 1792 he states:
"I HEREBY DIRECT that the sum of One hundred pounds Stock in three per cent Consolidated Bank Annuities may be purchased immediately after my decease... to produce as nearly as possible the Annual Sum of Three Pounds which... I DIRECT shall be applied and expended in the purchase of a twelfth Cake or Cakes and Wine and Punch or both of them which... it is my request the Ladies and Gentlemen performers of Drury lane Theatre... will do me the favour to accept on twelfth night in every year in the Green Room..."
In Baddeley's time, His Majesty's Company of Comedians at Drury Lane were entitled to wear the Sovereign's Livery and he is supposed to be the last actor to have worn the scarlet and gold uniform.
As a man of tradition, surely he would be honoured and delighted to know that he is still remembered with affection in the Theatre that he loved.