To date, I have written quite a few articles about Dido Elizabeth Belle, along with guest posts by Etienne Daly, but suddenly realised that I have largely ignored the co-sitter in the famous portrait, her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Mary Murray, so it’s time to rectify this, but of course it wouldn’t be complete without a snippet of new information about Dido, so do read on!
If we think today’s families are complicated, this might give you a clue that little has really changed since the 1700s.
Lady Elizabeth Mary’s father was David, the 7th Viscount Stormont, later to become the 2nd Earl of Mansfield. It was whilst he was ambassador to the Elector of Saxony that he met his first wife, Henrietta Frederica, the daughter of Henry Graf Bunau. By the time they met, Henrietta was a widow, her husband Frederik de Berregaard, having died two years previously.
The couple married on 16 August 1759 and almost nine months to the day, on 18 May 1760, Lady Elizabeth Mary was born in Warsaw, Poland. The couple went on to have another daughter, Henrietta, born 16 October 1763, but sadly, she died in Vienna, whilst an infant, closely followed by Henrietta herself, who died on 16 March 1766 also in Vienna, aged just 29.
Henrietta was interred at the Protestant churchyard in Vienna, with minimal fuss and ceremony, but her heart was removed, embalmed and taken to Scone at the request of her husband.
This left David with a daughter to raise alone, a situation which would be almost impossible, so he did what he thought was for the best and brought Lady Elizabeth Mary back to England in May 1766, and took her to Lord and Lady Mansfield at Kenwood House, who were able to give her a more stable upbringing, something that would have been extremely difficult given her father’s ambassadorial post.
On 6 May 1776 at St George’s Hanover Square, David married for a second time. His second wife being the Honourable Louisa Cathcart (1758-1843), thirty years his junior and just two years older than his daughter, Lady Elizabeth Mary who would have been just sixteen at this time.
They went on to have a further five children –David (1777-1840), George (1780-1848), Charles (1781-1859), Henry (1784-1860) and lastly, Caroline (1789-1867).
Their eldest son, David, Elizabeth Mary’s half-brother, would, in due course, become the 3rd Earl of Mansfield.
In September 1796, David, 2nd Earl of Mansfield, died suddenly in September 1796, whilst at Brighton, from a stomach spasm.
When the 2nd Earl of Mansfield was buried at Westminster Abbey, he specifically requested that his heart should be removed, embalmed and take to Scone to be reunited with that of his first wife. There is a memorial to both the earl and Henrietta at Scone. I do wonder how his second wife must have felt about that!
From the Hampshire Chronicle 17 September 1796 account it would appear that the 2nd Earl’s funeral didn’t go quite as planned. His remains were brought from Brighton where he died, to his residence in Portland Place and from there to Westminster Abbey with all the pomp and ceremony you would expect for such an eminent person.
Crowds of people gathered jostling to get a better view of the proceedings outside the abbey. The hearse door was opened, two of the bearers drew out the coffin, and had got it on their shoulders, but through the indecency of the multitude who pressed forward to teat off the ornaments, the horses took fright, and ran off before the other men were ready, consequently the corpse fell to the ground, and the coffin was shattered so much so that the foot part bulged, and a number of the nails and ornaments were forced out.
The concussion must have broken the leaden receptacle, as a large amount of water poured from it. It was all repaired as quickly as possible and his body was interred in the family vault. The former lord and his lady were the only two, beside his Lordship, who were buried in the tomb contiguous to the Earl of Chatham’s monument, on the north-west side of the chancel.
Louisa survived her husband by 47 years and didn’t waste much time in marrying again. On 19 October 1797, her second husband became Robert Fulke Greville (1751-1824), the son of Francis Greville, 1st Earl of Warwick. Robert was known to have been a favourite at court, initially an equerry to King George III, later becoming Groom of the Bedchamber.
Louisa and Robert went on to have a further three children – Lady Georgiana (1798-1871), Lady Louisa (1800-1883) and finally, the Honourable Robert (1800-1867).
Returning to Lady Elizabeth Mary, she married into another long-established family, the Finch-Hattons. On 15 December 1785, at Lord Mansfield’s town house she married George Finch-Hatton by special licence, her fortune upon marriage was said to be £17,000 – £10,000 from Lord Mansfield plus £7,000 from her father (about 1.5 million pounds in today’s money).
Following the service performed by the Archbishop of York, the couple set off for celebrations at Kenwood House. There is no indication as to whether Dido Elizabeth Belle would have attended the wedding itself, but she would almost certainly have been present for the celebrations at Kenwood.
Whether this marriage was a love match or arguably, more about ‘keeping it in the family’ who knows, as Lady Elizabeth’s husband George, was the son of Edward Finch-Hatton, who was the son of Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham and 7th Earl of Winchilsea. Daniel’s youngest daughter was, co-incidentally, also the father of Elizabeth Finch, wife of Lord Mansfield.
Most places seem to show that Elizabeth Mary and George had just three children, so let’s set this record straight – they had seven.
Their first child was a daughter, Louisa, who was born 12 November 1786. Louisa married the Honourable Charles Hope (1768-1828), the son of John Hope, 2nd Earl of Hopetoun (1704-1781) and his third wife, Lady Elizabeth Leslie. The couple married on 30 April 1807 at the church at St. Marylebone, although their marriage was also registered at Aberlady, Scotland.
27 October 1788 at Gretton, Northamptonshire, their second child, Anna Maria was born. Anna Maria never married and died on 2 December 1837 and was buried a few days later at All Saints, Leamington Priors, Warwickshire.
Most records seem to have written Anna Maria out of history, and yet she was mentioned by the author Jane Austen in somewhat less than flattering terms, in a letter to her sister Cassandra on 6 November 1813:
Lady Eliz. Hatton and Annamaria called here this morning. Yes, they called; but I do not think I can say anything more about them. They came, and they sat, and they went.
It would be two years after the birth of Anna Maria, that their third child was born, Elizabeth Henrietta, who was born on 19 January 1790. Elizabeth never married and died at the age of 30, in 1820. Elizabeth helpfully left a will, in which she left bequests for all her siblings.
Their fourth child was their son and heir, George, who was born on 19 May 1791. He attended Westminster school, then Cambridge university. He then went on to have a military career, before becoming a politician and became well known for a duel with the then Prime Minister, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.
George married three times, his first wife being Georgiana Charlotte Graham (1791-1835), his second wife being Emily Georgiana Bagot, who died in 1848 and finally Fanny Margaretta Rice, who outlived George who died in 1858. George and his first two wives died at Haverholme Priory, near Sleaford, Lincolnshire.
Their fifth child and second son was Edward Frederick, who was baptised at Eastwell, Kent on 16 January 1793. Edward Frederick’s life was cut short, when he died at the age of just 20, and was buried 8 September 1813 at Eastwell. No cause of death was provided for Frederick, but the Kentish Gazette, 7 September 1813, reported that he was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and was much lamented by his family and friends.
Their sixth child and third son was Daniel Heneage, who was born at the family home, Eastwell, Kent on 5 May 1795. Daniel went into the church and eventually married on 15 December 1825 at St George’s, Hanover Square and kept his marriage ‘in the family’ so to speak. As noted earlier, Daniel’s maternal step grandmother was Louisa, 2nd Lady Mansfield. On the death of Lady Elizabeth’s father, she married again. Her second husband being Robert Fulke Greville. Together they had three children. Daniel Heneage married the middle child, Lady Louisa Greville. Daniel died in 1866 at Weldon, Northamptonshire.
Emily was their seventh and youngest child and, who, like several of the others, appears to have been all but written out of history. Emily was born 12 Oct 1797 and baptised at Eastwell. In 18126, she married a vicar, Alfred Charnley Lawrence, who was the rector of Sandhurst, Kent. The couple had three children and Emily died in 1868.
From the newspapers of the day you get the impression that Elizabeth Mary was something of a social butterfly, frequently paying visits to people within in her social circle, being seen in all the ‘right places’, attending and hosting balls, one of which that warrants mention, held for her three younger daughters:
Saint James Chronicle 10 May 1817
Lady Finch Hatton’s Ball – this elegant Lady opened Mansfield House, in Portland Place, on Thursday evening, with a ball and supper. It was a juvenile party, for the express purpose of introducing the three accomplished Misses Hatton into the fashionable world.
We must also remember that when Lady Anne Murray, Lady Elizabeth’s paternal aunt, died on 3 July 1817 at her Brighton home, leaving many bequests to faithful servants, she left the bulk of her estate to Lady Elizabeth Mary’s husband, George, along with bequests for all of their children.
Lady Anne also left £50 to each of Dido Elizabeth’s 3 boys. This implies that in late 1804, when she wrote her will, that Dido’s son John, believed to have died in infancy was in fact still alive at that time. Lady Anne must have kept in touch with Dido’s family, as she knew Dido had died, but what became of her son John remains unsolved.
Lady Anne’s sister, Lady Margery, who died in 1799, was also clearly very fond of Dido as she too left her £100 in her will.
George Finch Hatton died in 1823 and Lady Elizabeth Mary, just two years later in Edinburgh.
She left a very detailed will, ensuring that all her surviving children were well provided for. In her will, there is a lovely mention of her late mother, Henrietta when she specifically left Anna Maria a miniature portrait of her, a memory of her mother kept safe for almost 60 years.
One final snippet of information, Lady Elizabeth Mary’s grandson, Denys Finch Hatton had a relationship with Karen Blixen, who wrote her autobiography – Out of Africa. The film of the same name was loosely based on her book.
Paul. Sir James Balfour. The Scots peerage; founded on Wood’s edition of Sir Robert Douglas’s peerage of Scotland; containing an historical and genealogical account of the nobility of that kingdom. Volume 8. Page 208-209
Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1280
The Scots Magazine 7 November 1763
Caledonian Mercury 14 April 1766
Oxford Journal 31 May 1766
Dublin Evening Post – Tuesday 27 December 1785
Hereford Journal – Thursday 22 December 1785
Bolton Chronicle 9 December 1837
Edinburgh Sheriff Court Inventories SC70/1/33
Feltham, John. A Guide to all the watering and sea bathing places 1813. p87