Lady Elizabeth Hamilton was the daughter of Henry Belasyse, the 2nd Earl Fauconberg, and the wife of Bernard Howard, heir to the Dukedom of Norfolk, who she had married on the 23rd April, 1789. On 12 August 1791, the couple had a son, Henry Charles Howard, who would ultimately become the 13th Duke of Norfolk.
However, in 1793 she eloped with the man who had been her first love, whom she had wanted to marry originally but had been stopped from doing so by her family.
That man was Richard Bingham (1764-1839), son and heir to the 1st Earl of Lucan.
Lady Elizabeth was a minor when she married The Right Honourable Bernard Edward Howard, Esquire, in her father’s house in George Street, Hanover Square.
The marriage witnessed by her father, her new father-in-law and a man who merely signed Petre (probably Robert Edward Petre the future 10th Baron Petre who had married Bernard Howard’s sister Lady Mary Bridget Howard three years earlier).
Lady Elizabeth had told her unsuspecting husband that she was going to travel to visit her father, who was in the north of England, and Howard agreed to visit his sister rather than travel with her. He accordingly left for his sister’s house, his wife telling him she planned to leave for her own visit the next day. On the evening of her husband’s departure, 24th July, 1793, Lady Elizabeth took her carriage to a jeweller’s shop near Piccadilly where she bought some trinkets before sending the carriage home with her infant son, his nurse and a letter to her husband which the nurse was to leave on her master’s table.
But the nurse was suspicious and sent a footman back to the jeweller’s to enquire for Lady Elizabeth. When the footman arrived back to say that the jeweller had reported that Lady Elizabeth left his shop around half an hour earlier with Mr Bingham, hasty despatches were sent to both her husband and father, but to no avail for the runaway couple had gone to ground.
The criminal conversation case was heard before the House of Lords on 7th April, 1794; Lady Elizabeth was represented by Mr Garrow and Mr Erskine. With all parties wanting a divorce the sticking points were the 12,000l. which Lady Elizabeth had brought to her marriage (Mr Garrow argued that some provision should be made for her) and a proposed clause which would bastardize any child born to her.
Lady Elizabeth was heavily pregnant, about to lie in, and Mr Garrow argued on her behalf that “it was not in the nature of evidence to prove that the infant was not Mr Howard’s”.
Mr Erskine observed that the marriage contract between the lady and Bernard Howard was made in opposition to her desires and that she was involuntarily taken to the altar.
A divorce was granted and she married her first love on 26th May, 1794, becoming the Countess of Lucan when her husband, Richard, became the 2nd Earl Lucan.
During their marriage they had a further four children after Elizabeth. Anne born in 1797, Louisa 1798, Georgiana 1799, George Charles 1800 and finally Richard Camden in 1801.
According to The Sun, September 1803, Richard had been taken seriously ill:
Lord Lucan who has been disabled by long and severe indisposition, is gradually recovering the use of his limbs. This nobleman, it is said, is going to erect a splendid villa on the banks of the Thames at Laleham.
However, this second marriage didn’t last either and the couple separated in 1804.
Lady Elizabeth left for Paris at the end of 1815 where she was to die on the 24th March, 1819.
The young girl in the portrait, Lady Elizabeth Bingham, was raised as the natural and lawful daughter of Elizabeth and Richard, as stated in the marriage register when she married George Granville Venables Vernon on 27 March 1815. The couple married in the home of the Honourable Earl Spencer, with her father’s permission as she was under age.
So, irrespective of the court case, Richard, 2nd Earl Lucan regarded her as his child and provided for her along with her siblings in his will.
The Whole of the Trial of the Hon. Richard Bingham: For Adultery with Lady Elizabeth Howard
Caledonian Mercury, 8th August, 1793
Caledonian Mercury, 12th April, 1794
Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1916