Dido Elizabeth Belle’s half-sister, Elizabeth Lindsay

Research continues into the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, daughter of Sir John Lindsay, yet to date only a limited amount of information is widely known today about the life of his other surviving illegitimate daughter, and half-sister to Dido, named Elizabeth (known as Eliza) Lindsay aka Palmer, as to a large extent she seems to have been written out of history. However, it would be Elizabeth and her half-brother John, whose existence Sir John acknowledged in his will as his ‘reputed’ children.

With that, let me introduce you to Peter Hill and Mr Elizabeth Hill née Lindsay or Palmer. Sadly, we don’t know the artist of these paintings.

Much research has been quietly carried out by Eliza’s descendants, especially Christopher Normand, and it’s thanks to his generosity in sharing the information he gleaned,  along with the photograph of Eliza and her husband, which has allowed me to delve deeper into her life and her family.

Eliza was born 8 December 1766 in Jamaica, just a few days after Dido was being baptised on the other side of the world, in London. As we see here from her baptism at Port Royal, Jamaica, it took place when she was a month old, on 10 January 1767.

Jamaica Parish Registers 1664-1800, Port Royal. Click to enlarge

Her baptismal record shows quite clearly, Sir John Lindsay as being her father, which he appears to have acknowledged throughout her life. Her mother was simply named as Martha G and there is nothing on the baptismal entry to tell us more about Eliza’s mother, but the majority of baptisms at that time record ethnicity if non white, and as can be seen above, there is nothing against either Eliza or her mother’s name, which in all likelihood means that unlike Dido, Eliza was white.

It remains unclear as to when Eliza and her half-brother, John, who was born in November 1767 arrived in Britain.

John Lindsay born 28 November 1767, Kingston, Jamaica. Parish Registers. Click to enlarge

Presumably Sir John felt the pair would have better life chances here rather than remaining in Jamaica and in Britain under Sir John’s care, they would receive a good education.

Martin, David; Alexander Murray (1736-1795), Lord Henderland; National Galleries of Scotland

It seems highly likely that Eliza and possibly John, were raised in Edinburgh, meaning they would be close to Sir John’s mother, Lady Amelia Lindsay (1691-1774) and his sister, Lady Katherine Henderland (1737-1828), the wife of Judge Alexander Murray, Lord Henderland (1736-1795).

It was in September 1768 that Eliza’s father married Mary Milner, a name we will return to later in Eliza’s life.

Little is known of Eliza’s early life, but it has been suggested by her descendants that she attended a boarding school in Edinburgh, which I  do agree with, especially in light of a reference that appeared in the accounts of John Lindsay junior, who noted that a woman by the name of Mrs Murray was to be paid for the education and board of a Miss Eliza Lindsay.

Whilst I am not sure whether this related to this his sister, Eliza or whether it pertained to his own daughter, whose name has not yet come into view, it is certainly of interest.

Click to enlarge

This question left me wondering whether there was any record of boarding schools around Edinburgh at the time Eliza would have been educated when I came across a document which included a Mrs Katherine Murray, who ran a boarding school from 1756, at Niddry’s Wynd. Niddry’s Wynd being fairly close to where Eliza was married, so it seems feasible, although I have no proof especially given this Mrs Murray ran the school in the latter part of the 1750’s that she was still there when Eliza attended, but it’s an interesting theory for now.

Creech’s Land, St Giles and the Market Cross, Edinburgh by Henry G. Duguid Nat Gallery Scotland

Around 1772, Eliza’s future husband, Peter Hill became apprenticed to Mr William Creech, a publisher and bookseller at that time. Edinburgh was renowned for its booksellers and Creech was arguably one of the most famous, so much so that the area around his shop became known as Creech’s Land.

Creech published for many authors such as the poet, Robert Burns, and also Dr James Beattie, who met Dido Elizabeth Belle at Kenwood House in 1771, which begs the question as to whether Beattie ever knew that the then young Peter Hill went on to marry Sir John Lindsay’s other daughter, Eliza. It was a small world at that time where anyone who was anyone knew each other, although Eliza would only have been a young child at the time, as there was an eleven year age gap between Eliza and Peter Hill.

Eliza and Peter married in Edinburgh on 3 May 1783, Eliza was 16 at the time and the marriage entry recorded her name as Elizabeth Palmer, alias Lindsay, daughter of Sir John Lindsay. Despite many attempts it has not been possible to ascertain why she used the name Palmer, unless it was in honour of someone who raised her.

Edinburgh Parish Marriage Register

On 29 September that year, Sir John wrote his will, in which he made provision of £1,000 each for John and Eliza, which was to be left in a trust, to be administered by his wife, Lady Mary Lindsay.

Click to enlarge

Now, it’s worth noting that Sir John named his daughter, Elizabeth Lindsay i.e. he used her maiden name, which arguably implies that he was unaware that Eliza had been married for 4 months by then, which could possibly tie in with the theory that the couple eloped, especially given Eliza’s age.

When they first married they are believed to have rented a flat at the head of The Mound, Edinburgh.

View of Princes Street, The Mound, and Edinburgh Castle National Galleries Scotland Copy after Thomas H. Shepherd

It would be just over a year into their marriage that their first child, Amelia was born, presumably named for her paternal grandmother, which seems to imply that she either knew or knew of her grandmother.

It is interesting to note that Eliza gave her maiden name on her daughter’s baptism, Palmer and not Lindsay, as she would go on to do for all her children, for some unexplained reason. Within the following year, they moved from The Mound to a property at 160 Nicolson Street on the corner of Hill Place. It has been suggested that Hill Place was named after Peter, however it was named after James Hill, a mason who was involved in building many houses in that area.

It seems highly likely that it was around this time, that William Creech and Peter had gone their separate ways, with Peter establishing his own bookshop. The Female Servant Tax Rolls of 1785, shows that Peter and Eliza had moved to Nicolson Street and were employing a servant, Mary Sherry.

In March 1786, Eliza and Peter’s second child entered the world, another girl, Margaret. Then shortly after this they moved again, this time to Parliament Close, as Peter’s name appeared in the shop rates 1788/89.

Kay, John; The Parliament Close and Public Characters of Edinburgh, Fifty Years Since; City of Edinburgh Council

It was in 1787 that Peter and Eliza first became acquainted with the poet, Robert Burns who would become a regular visitor and correspondent. Eliza was said to have been Peter’s superior, socially and is believed to have disapproved of her husband’s acquaintance with the poet. However, Burns described Eliza as ‘my fair friend’  and clearly enjoyed her company.

February 1788, Peter took on an apprentice, Archibald Constable, who lived in with the family. Constable would later write:

Mr Hill had been for many years principal clerk to Mr Creech, was highly respected as possessing gentlemanly manners beyond most others of the trade and proved in this year and important stage of my career a kind and indulgent master.

Constable went on to say:

I lived in the house with him … I passed six years very happily as an apprentice, and another as a clerk, receiving in the last year £30 of salary. Mr Hill’s shop was frequented by the most respectable persons in Edinburgh. Burns the poet when in town was a frequent visitor, the distinguished professors and clergy, and the most remarkable strangers. I remember Captain Gross making frequent visits …

Mr Hill did not remain long in the Parliament Close, but removed about the year of 1790 to the shop at the cross where he now is, his apprentices, clerks and shopmen increasing with his trade, which was very considerable.

NB Captain Gross (sic) was Francis Grose, the well-known author of A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

Another of Peter’s employees was the mathematician an astronomer, William Wallace, who joined Peter towards the latter part of Archibald’s apprenticeship.

In June 1788, Eliza’s father, Sir John Lindsay died, as to when Eliza found out of her father’s death remains unanswered, but it would have been from this point onwards that she would have begun to receive the £1,000 left to her in his will. £1,000 was not an insignificant sum of money at that time and would equate to around £120,000 in today’s money (Bank of England). The same amount was also left to her brother, John.

Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay)
Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay); Glasgow Museums

Business appeared to be going well for Peter, and he and his family continued to move, presumably to bigger and better premises, this move took them to James’s Court, but  in their domestic life tragedy struck again, in March 1789 when their four year old daughter, Amelia died from a fever.

Around this time, Eliza had two further children, John and James, both presumably named for Eliza’s and Peter’s fathers, although to date I have found no record of their births or deaths, but in 1790 the Servant Tax return confirms that they had two servants and 3 children, these children would have been, Margaret, James and John.

On 2 March 1790, Peter received a letter from Robert Burns, which included the following about Eliza:

And now, to quit the dry walk of business, how do you do my dear friend? and how is Mrs. Hill? I trust, if now and then not so elegantly handsome, at least as amiable, and sings as divinely as ever.

11 May 1791 saw the baptism of Elizabeth’s first son who would survive infancy and named Peter, for his father.

Peter Hill, bookseller by Samuel Edmonston Nat Galleries Scotland

Here we see Peter (senior) paying tax in 1791-2 for owning a horse and carriage:

As if any further proof were needed that Eliza was Sir John’s daughter, around 1793 Eliza had another daughter, whom she very clearly named after her step-mother – Mary Milner, it would appear crystal clear from this naming that she knew and respected her stepmother. I would argue that there was a much closer relationship, despite the distance, between Eliza and her father’s side of the family. At this time, the family moved again, this time to a house on Ramsay Gardens, Edinburgh.

Between 1793 and 1798 trials for sedition were held in Edinburgh, with Eliza’s uncle, Alexander Murray, Lord Henderson being one of the leading judges in the trials. When you look at the case of one of these men, Joseph Gerrald, another name comes into view, that of Peter Hill. It transpires that Peter was the Clerk, and therefore, Eliza would be well aware of these court cases.

In March 1794, Sir John Lindsay’s wife, Lady Mary wrote her will, in which she ensured Sir John two ‘reputed’ children continued to receive their inheritance from their father, although by this time Eliza had received £500 of the £1,000 trust. Lady Mary put in provision that upon her death the money should be paid to his children via Sir John’s sister, Katherine Murray, Lady Henderland. In addition to this, she personally left them £100 each (about £10.5k in today’s money). The same year, Peter’s name appeared in the Edinburgh Burgesses and Guild Brethren.

Around 1796, Eliza was pregnant again, this child was again believed to have been named John, but again, it seems likely he died shortly after birth; therefore no baptism or burial record has survived. The following year, 1797 their second surviving son, Alexander was born, with another daughter, Eliza being born just a year later. At this time, Peter was a member of the Edinburgh Council.

23 November 1799 Lady Mary Lindsay died, so at this time Eliza and her brother would have received their £100 legacy from their stepmother, money which would no doubt have been very welcome with a growing family, especially as Eliza had another daughter, Helen in 1800, closely followed in April 1802 by William Simpson.

In 1801 Peter had a catalogue published listing all the books he sold, in which he gave two addresses from where they may be purchase – his shop at The Cross, Edinburgh and this entry also tells us that he had a warehouse too, at Royal Bank Close, Edinburgh.

Sadly though 1803 would be a difficult year, with two of their children dying within days of each other. Alexander, by that time aged 5, died from water on the brain on 1 April 1803. Then on 14 April, William Simpson also died, no cause of death given for him though. This would have been especially difficult as Eliza who would have been heavily pregnant with their next daughter, named Lindsay, in honour of her father and also her maiden name. Lindsay was born on 10 Jul 1803.

21 October 1806, saw the birth of yet another child, their 14th child, a son, Francis Bridges, who lived until the age of 20, when he died from ‘decline’ in 1826.  They were reputed to have had a 15th child, Robert in 1810, but there is no evidence of this child, if he existed, having survived infancy.

The North Elevation of Heriot’s Hospital, Edinburgh by Phillipe Mercier. National Galleries of Scotland

By 1805 Peter was no longer a bookseller and had become the city treasurer and in 1809 he was also the treasurer of George Heriot’s Hospital, a post he held until 1813 when he became the Chief Collector of Burgal Taxes.

At the end of January 1821 Eliza’s brother, John died in India. Like their stepmother, John didn’t forget his sister in his will. He left a legacy for Eliza and also wrote off  debt of £300 which her husband owed him, although John didn’t elaborate as to what the loan was for.

John also provided for his mother, Frances Edwards (A ‘free mulatto woman’) who remained in her home town of Kingston, Jamaica, although by the time John’s will was proven his mother had died.

Shortly after this, Eliza and Peter moved to the newly built, affluent area of Edinburgh, 7 Randolph Crescent, together with Peter’s widowed sister, Janet Commel, née Hill, the widow of James Commel, a merchant, who died in 1836. Their neighbours included the likes of  The Honourable Misses Stewart MacKenzie at No. 9 and Erskine Douglas Sandford, advocate and author, who lived at number 11.

The family remained there until Peter’s death in 1837, at which time money was short and Eliza went to live with her married daughter, Lindsay (Hill) Wilson, and her son-in-law, George Wilson, at their home at Dalmarnock, Glasgow, together with her unmarried daughters, Mary Milner, Eliza and Helen, where they were recorded at the 1841 Census.

Eliza died 28 January 1842, and was buried beside her husband Peter Hill in Canongate Kirkyard, Edinburgh. The inventory of her estate for probate in 1848 was just £188 17 shillings, which is about £16k in today’s money.

On a final note to the story, it has been suggested that Peter and Eliza had a son named McCulloch Hill, born in 1796, however, following his life as a shoemaker, I noted no connection between the families, especially as his father’s name according to McCulloch’s marriage certificate, was William.


Inventories & Accounts of Deceased Estates – Madras 1822-1936. Folio 1227 & 1228

Sir John Lindsay’s will – Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1167

Rogers, C. The Book of Robert Burns: Genealogical and Historical Memoirs of the poet, Volume 1. 

Constable, T. Archibald Constable and His Literary Correspondents: A Memorial, Volume 1

John Lindsay junior’s will 

Elizabeth’s Inventory. 1846 Hill Peter (Wills and testaments Reference SC36/48/32. Glasgow Sheriff Court Inventories).




What became of Dido Elizabeth Belle’s mother, Maria Belle?

If you have ever watched the film, Belle, as you would expect, some creative licence was involved, especially when it came to Dido being an orphan, this was not true.

Thomas Hutchinson, the former governor of Massachusetts who saw Dido at Kenwood House in 1779 wrote in his diary that Dido’s mother, Maria Belle, was taken prisoner onboard a Spanish vessel, then brought to England where she gave birth to Dido. Whether this is an accurate recollection of what happened we may never know for certain, but he would have had no reason to fabricate it, but it’s feasible that it was simply the account he had been given and didn’t question it.

What is known though, is that  Maria Belle lived in London until Dido was about 12 or 13, by which time Dido was firmly established at Kenwood House, the home of Lord and Lady Mansfield, where she was cared for, educated and raised as a young lady.

Lauren Julien-Box as 'Young Dido' and Matthew Goode as 'Captain Sir John Lindsay' in Amma Asante's BELLE
Lauren Julien-Box as ‘Young Dido’ and Matthew Goode as ‘Captain Sir John Lindsay’ in Amma Asante’s BELLE

But what became of her mother, Maria Belle? I was recently reminded by Etienne Daly about  Dido’s mother, who had been traced by archaeologist, Margo Stringfield, to Pensacola, Florida and you can hear about her fascinating findings in her conversation on Radio WUWF. In the interview she confirms that Maria Belle had moved to Pensacola and lived in a lovely property near the harbour.

As yet, no evidence has been found to confirm whereabouts in London Maria Belle lived or under what status – was she treated as a lady or was she a servant? whichever it may have been, it seems logical Sir John would have arranged accommodation somewhere for her and her newborn, after all, he arranged for Dido to live at Kenwood and his other two illegitimate children to live in Edinburgh, so he was unlikely to leave Dido’s mother to fend for herself.

There is however, absolutely nothing to indicate that Maria ever lived at Kenwood House with her daughter, but, although just speculation at present, it would seem likely she retained some form of contact with her young daughter as she grew up, but to date, no tangible evidence has survived to confirm the theory.

***  Please be aware, the following contains terminology about Maria Belle at the time but which today is regarded today as highly offensive  ***

Let’s go back a few steps, in 1757 Lindsay was made captain of HMS Trent and around the time of Dido’s conception was sailing between West Africa and the Leeward Islands. Given that Gene Adams stated that Dido was born 29 June 1761, and using modern conception calculators, assuming Maria Belle carried full term, then Dido would have been conceived early to mid-October 1760.

In September 1760, Lindsay was in the region of Guinea, West Africa and from there he sailed to the Leeward Islands, mooring briefly at Old Road Harbour, St Kitts and Nevis. He then sailed around the nearby islands, mooring briefly at Port Royal in December 1760. In January 1761 he returned to Port Royal with the ship Bien Amie in tow.

Sussex Advertiser – Monday 11 May 1761

From there the Bien Amie was taken to England, which begs the question, was Maria Belle onboard this ship? The truth is it is simply not known to date, from where Maria Belle originated. It has been suggested she was from Cuba, which is feasible, but again, to date, I have found no evidence to support the theory.

Moving forward a few year to the mid 1760’s Sir John Lindsay, who had at that time just been knighted, was posted to Pensacola, Florida, as captain of HMS Tartar and it was whilst there, that on 20 December 1765, he purchased or acquired two adjacent parcels of land, jointly given the number 6 – one part was to build a house upon, the other  part was an orchard/garden and as we can see below:

The town lot containeth in front or breadth eighty feet, and in depth, one hundred and seventy feet and the said garden lot containeth in front or breadth one hundred and five feet and in depth two hundred and eight feet, to hold the said lots and premises thereby granted together with all the timber and trees thereon growing.

This piece of land was formally registered to him on 4 January 1766 on the proviso that the land was to be enclosed and a dwelling built within 10 years i.e. by 1776 as can be seen below.

Click to enlarge for clarity
Reel 14. Vol 602. Folio 53. Grant of Lands, mortgages and conveyances 1765-1767. Courtesy of the American Philosophical Society

The author, Robin Fabel, in his book, The Economy of British West Florida, 1763-1783, tells us that in 1764, The Planation Act came into effect, which limited trading in West Florida to Britain only, and this included shipping trees to Britain. This would probably have made it lucrative to own a plot of land containing trees, as Sir John would have been able to ship the timber to England for resale.

Fabel also confirmed in his book that on 17 December 1765, Sir John was due to purchase 12 enslaved people from a merchant, Henry Driscoll and his partner, Henry Lizars, these enslaved people named below, were being transported onboard a ship named, The Cumberland :

Michael, Cumberland, Geoffrey, Samuel, Fortune, Charles, Caesar, Quachiba and three women –  Diana, Lucy, Venice and a child.

They were security for a debt of £487, 13 shilling and 8 pence, but tragically though, the ship sank whilst sailing from Jamaica for the Bay of Honduras and was lost on the Banaco shore.

What is not known is whether these people were for Sir John personally, or whether he was acting in the role of an agent for someone else. It’s perfectly feasible Sir John was planning to use these people to work on the land where the house was going to be, but despite my best efforts, it remains speculation at present, but from what is known about Sir John, it feels more likely he was simply acting as an agent.

Sir John returned to London around 1767, and during his absence his daughter, Dido Elizabeth Belle was baptised on 20 November 1766 aged five.  The baptism taking place at St George’s Church, in Bloomsbury with her mother being named simply named as, Maria, the wife of Mr Bell, as we can see here:

London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P82/Geo1/001

It is presumed that Maria or Bell’s wife, Maria, as she was named, was present at Dido’s baptism and it’s interesting though, that Dido took her mother’s surname and yet her half siblings, John and Elizabeth were given their father’s surname, albeit with Elizabeth later using her foster/adopted parents surname of Palmer, also.

Anyway, whatever Maria Belle’s domestic circumstances were in Britain, it would be a further seven years before Sir John granted her freedom, and arranging for the land in Pensacola to be transferred to her, allowing her therefore to return to Pensacola to continue her life, but that would be without him or her daughter, Dido. Speculation has been made that Maria and Dido spent time in Pensacola – there is absolutely no supporting evidence for this, and it does seem highly unlikely. 

Here we can see an extract from the property transfer document which confirms Maria Belle to be a free woman,  ‘a negro woman of Pensacola in America, but now of London, aforesaid made free of the other part’. 

Fabel confirmed in his book that the transfer of the property took place on 1 August 1773, and that she paid no money for this transfer, but it does state that she should pay a peppercorn rent on 25 March each year. Fabel wasn’t quite correct with the date as we can see here, it was 10 August 1773.

When you read the entire transfer document you also learn that Sir John visited Edinburgh to conduct this transaction, rather than asking his uncle, Lord Mansfield, the most senior judge in England and that no fee for this transaction was paid by Maria Belle i.e., it was gifted to her, along with her freedom to return to Pensacola. It’s worth noting that this freedom for Maria Belle took place just over a year after Lord Mansfield’s most famous case on slavery of Somerset v Stewart.

This document tells us that Maria Belle was from Pensacola originally, but there appears to be no proof of this as yet, mainly because records for that period are extremely scarce. There were the ships regularly sailing between the likes of West Africa and places such as Cuba, Jamaica and to Florida, so it may be that Maria Belle spent some of her life in Pensacola, which might explain her being ‘formerly of Pensacola’. The fact remains however, that no-one appears to know where she originated from.

The witnesses to Sir John’s signature were James Cunningham and Alexander Campbell, with the document being approved by the Lord Provost and Chief Magistrate of the City of Edinburgh, The Right Honourable Gilbert Laurie as can be seen below.

Click on the image to enlarge

It does beg the question as to whether, whilst in Edinburgh, he visited his other two children, John who would have been aged 6 and Elizabeth, aged 7, whilst I would hope so, I have no supporting evidence. Equally, it’s possible that this could have been when these children arrived in Britain, especially as we know that Elizabeth would later marry in Edinburgh, but there is still much more research into the early lives of these two half siblings to be done. 

Fabel tells us that according to a map of 1781, Maria’s lot was a high status one, facing Cumberland Street and Pensacola Harbour, and given that we have the number of the lot it could only be one of these two, shown on this map, one is on the corner of Cumberland Street, overlooking the harbour as per Faber, but there is a more likely one which again, overlooks the harbour but is on Lindsay Street, which seems far more likely given its owner, Sir John Lindsay, the street having been named in his honour.

It seems safe to assume that once the legal paperwork had been completed, that Maria Belle set off for a new life in Pensacola, to build the house and fence the surrounding land, as per the requirements of the registration document i.e. within 10 years.

Daly, who has been researching Dido Belle for several years, thinks that given her status, as the mother of Dido, that Sir John would have organised transport for her, perhaps onboard a naval vessel, but to date has found nothing to confirm this theory especially as naval vessels were, strictly speaking, not permitted to carry ‘passenger,’ but in my opinion it is more likely that she sailed on one of the regular packet ships that was bound for Jamaica, then on to Pensacola.

At about the time Maria would have left England, records only show an Ann Bell, aged 21 who sailed from London to Pensacola in August 1774, although, I’m fairly convinced she was another female Bell who was taking up residence there.

In both Springfield in her book Historic Pensacola and Fabel’s book, a Maria Belle is named as having paid a manumission fee i.e. purchased her freedom, for which she paid 200 Spanish Milled Dollars (Approx. £48 at the time), to a Phillips Comyn.

Having obtained a copy of manumission (above), I discovered that yes, indeed she did pay the fee, but also that she was buying her freedom from Phillips Comyn, not from Sir John Lindsay – so, it would appear that she had once again, somehow, become enslaved. Phillips Comyn, his father and siblings were merchants, all involved in the selling of enslaved people. 

In the index Maria Belle is described as ‘ Maria Belle a Negro wench’

The document didn’t make any sense, she left London as a free woman and yet, somehow, she had become, Maria Belle

a negro woman slave, about twenty eight years of age, and the property of me, the said Phillips Comyn … fully and freely and absolutely give, grant and remit unto her, the said Maria Belle, her full and entire freedom and liberty forever henceforth, and I do hereby for myself, my executors and administrators forever release and discharge the said Maria Belle of and from all manner of service and services which I the said Phillips Comyn now have, or ever had a right to ask, demand or require from her, the said Maria Belle and I, the said Phillips Comyn for myself, my executors and administrators do further covenant, grant and agree that the said Maria Belle, from and after the date of these presents forever henceforth shall and may pay and repay to and from any parts of the British Dominions or elsewhere without the set trouble, hindrance, fuss or molestation of me, the said Phillips Comyn, my executors or administration.

The manumission was dated 22 August 1774 and was witnessed on 29 August 1774 by none other than Alexander McCullagh, Esquire, Deputy Provincial Secretary for the said province. The same person who witnessed Sir John’s transfer of land to Maria when she arrived in Pensacola on 12 January 1774, as we see below:

Land transfer document witnessed by Alexander Macullagh

Surely, he must have recognised her and known that she was a free woman and land owner? It’s very strange, unless there were two Maria Belle’s, one a free woman, the mother of  Dido Belle and land owner; the other, aged about 28 and in the possession of Phillips Comyn (1743-1777). It’s not impossible but feels rather unlikely.

Having read this document, it raised the question for me as to whether the original suggestion that Dido Belle’s mother, Maria Belle did in fact ever pay the $200. I have been questioning for a while why she would have paid the manumission when she arrived in Pensacola when Sir John sent her off to Pensacola having granted her freedom whilst in Britain – I have no explanation, as yet.

However, returning to Fabel’s book, I also noticed another mention of Maria Belle, this time though it curiously related to her being sold to Phillips Comyn by an Antonio Garson, so with that, I had to find out more about this transaction.

I tracked this down and was very kindly provided with a copy of the document by the Library of Congress, which tells us that Antonio Garson was a yeoman, who was indebted to Phillips Comyn, a merchant and member of the council.

Garson, it would appear, owed Comyn 970 Spanish Dollars or £225, 5 shillings and 8 pence for goods, wares and merchandise supplied to him by Comyns and unable to meet the debt and so he sold some of his possession to make up the value of the debt, this included twelves cows, ten calves, three canoes, several horses, bedding, kitchen items etc and as can be read below…

‘one negro man named John, one other Negroe man named Louis and one Negroe woman named Maria Belle’

This transaction was concluded on 21 March 1774 and it was at that stage that Maria Belle became the property of Phillips Comyns who granted her freedom a few months later. Once again, this transaction was witnessed by Alexander Macullagh.

Was the Maria Belle being bought and sold really Dido’s mother, we may never know for sure, but a Mrs Bell (without the ‘e’), widow, appeared on the 1781 census.

Anglo-Americans in Spanish Archives Pensacola 1781 Census

Stringfield feels sure that the Maria Belle on the 1781 census was Dido’s mother, but it could equally be argued that it was this Mrs Bell, the young lady, Ann Bell, who sailed from London to settle in Pensacola onboard The Successes Increase in August 1774.

After  that potential sighting, in 1781, Maria Belle disappeared from the radar, but hopefully one day there will be an answer as to what became of her. Sadly, this article does raise more questions than it’s been possible to answer, but research continues.

** See an update dated 10 May 2023, in the Comments section of this article **


To find out more about Dido Elizabeth Belle, her family and much more

click on this link.


American Philosophical Society. p128 of  Reel 18

Colonial Office West Florida. CO5/613:238. Original supplied courtesy of the Library of Congress

Colonial Office West Florida. CO5/613:211. Original supplied courtesy of the Library of Congress

Pensacola, Florida; Year: 1774; Page Number: 316

The Florida Historical Quarterly. Volume XXXVII, Jan – Apr 1959

Featured Image

Plan of Pensacola 1764 bearing Sir John Lindsay’s name

The Amorous Thief

I came across this curious case of a marriage, a few years ago, in connection with Dido Elizabeth Belle’s husband, John Daviniere. It was a case that many of the London newspapers  of  late 1815 reported upon. I put it to one side as it only appeared for a few days, and with no conclusion. However, returning to it with fresh eyes, I’ve unearthed some more bits and pieces to share with you.

Early November 1815, a man named William Palmer, alias John Everett, was charged with robbing a young Irish girl by the name of Julia Leary of clothing.

Julia was a young and uneducated servant girl, who had recently left Ireland to work in London and knew no-one except her employer and his wife. The couple she worked for were Mr John Daviniere and his ‘wife’. By the time of this case, Daviniere was a widower, Dido having died in 1804.

At some time after Dido’s death, her husband began a relationship with a Jane Holland and by 1815 they were co-habiting and had two children, in addition to Dido’s sons, the family having moved to 31 Edgware Road, London. As a slight aside, one thing I did think was interesting, was that John Daviniere’s wife was mentioned in all the newspapers, and yet John didn’t marry Jane until 1819, so were living together in apparent respectability, despite not being legally married at the time of this account.

Returning to Julia, she began a brief relationship with Palmer after he saw her on Edgeware Road, running errands for the Daviniere’s He introduced himself to her and told her he worked locally as a shoemaker. After just a mere four weeks, he whisked her off to St James’s Church, Piccadilly to marry her … but did he actually go through with the wedding?

Julia would later confirm that on arriving at the church,  Palmer simply put a brass ring rather than a gold one, on her finger, spoke to a man in the church, then announced to her that they were now wed. No legal ceremony took place, but being young and extremely naïve, Julia simply believed him.

Having disappeared for longer than expected, when Julia returned to Mrs Daviniere, she was reproached for having been out so long, but rather than apologise to her mistress, Julia simply announced that she had in fact gone out to get married, despite having only known the man for such a short time.

The following morning Palmer arrived at the Daviniere house and demanded that his new wife, along with her all clothing should leave, as he was taking her to visit his mother at Epping. Julia dutifully packed up her clothes and the couple left. All of this would take place some three weeks before Palmer would find himself in front of the Bow Street magistrate – but why?

The court were told that after the couple left Daviniere’s house, rather than going to visit Palmer’s mother they simply wandered around Epping Forest for four days, staying at a small public house on the heath at night.

Eventually they returned to London, but on arriving at St Paul’s churchyard, Palmer gave Julia the slip, and vanished from sight, along with all Julia’s bundle of clothing. Julia found herself entirely destitute, no money and all her clothing gone.

She had no friends in London except Mrs Daviniere, whom she returned to, and told her what had happened. Mrs Daviniere took pity on Julia and took her back into their house.

It would transpire in court that this was probably not the first gullible young woman that Palmer had done this to, and nor would  it be the last. Shortly after abandoning Julia, he returned to Edgware Road and attempted to repeat his crime, except on this occasion the young woman he selected was vaguely known to Julia and Julia had already told what had happened to her.

This appears to have been a regular occurrence for Palmer. This other young woman told Julia that she was getting married on the forthcoming Thursday, again at St James’s, but neither girl put two and two together and worked out it was to the same man.

Again, the sham wedding went ahead, but as the Daviniere’s had already reported the crime, a court official, John Humphries, was waiting for Palmer after the ‘wedding’ and immediately arrested him and took him into custody.

On searching Palmer, Humphries found pawnbroker’s duplicates for part of the poor girl’s clothes, also three ball cartridges and three bullets.

On being take to the office, Palmer revealed that his name was John Everett, and not William Palmer, the name he had used when he pretended to marry Julia.

Richard Birnie, 1819 engraving by William Say after James Green. NPG

Sir Richard Birnie, Chief Magistrate at Bow Street was so concerned about his case that he said he would ‘subscribe towards the expenses of carrying on the prosecution, as it was such a villainous case, to rob the poor girl of the whole of her property.’

The Old Bailey. Microcosm of London.
The Old Bailey. Microcosm of London.

On 6 December 1815, William Palmer now using what was assumed to be his real name, John Everett, aged 46, appeared at the Old Bailey, charged with grand larceny.

JOHN EVERETT alias WILLIAM PALMER , was indicted for stealing, on the 8th of October , two gowns, value 10s. two shifts, value 2s. one towel, value 2d. one apron value 6d. two caps, value 6d. and one gown piece, value 10s. the property of Julia Leary .

The outcome of the trial being that Everett/Palmer was found guilty and sentenced to transportation for 7 years. He didn’t depart immediately, rather he spent over a year onboard The Retribution, prison hulk, which stated his age at that time as being 46, so born around 1770, therefore considerably older than Julia would have been, even though we don’t have an exact age for her, she was reported to have been young.

He eventually sailed for New South Wales in April 1817 onboard The Almorah. The convict records confirm that John Everett was a shoemaker from Suffolk. His occupation tallies what he had told Julia.

A View of Hobart, Tasmania. YCBA

From NSW he sailed onboard The Pilot, to Tasmania. The convict record helpfully provides a physical description of him – 5 feet 7.75 inches, hazel eyes, black hair with a sallow complexion. His conduct was described as good.

The Tasmania Archives show that his conduct wasn’t always quite what it should have been though, as he was fined for being drunk and disorderly and suspected of theft on another occasion – not guilty of that crime, however.

He then disappears from view, so the rest of his life remains a mystery … for now, at least. As for  Julia, it seems unlikely that we’ll ever know what became of her.


The Globe 4 November 1815

The Star 7 November 1815

Australian Convict Transportation Registers – Other Fleets & Ships, 1791-1868

Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books, 1802-1849

Assignment List CON13-1-1; Conduct Record CON31/1/9; Other Records CON13/1/1



Dido Elizabeth Belle – 14 Ranelagh Street, Pimlico

As many of you will be aware, research into the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle and her family has been ongoing for quite some time now and today, at the suggestion of Etienne Daly, who has been researching the life of Dido for a number of years, I will take a look at some of Dido and John’s neighbours, in order to gain a glimpse into what living on Ranelagh Street would have been like for this newlywed couple.

When Dido Elizabeth Belle married John Daviniere in 1793, the couple set up home at 14 Ranelagh Street in Pimlico. It’s difficult to determine in which social circles Dido and John mixed after their wedding, or exactly where Dido lived immediately following the death of Lord Mansfield, earlier in 1793.

Her direct family, i.e., her father and Lord Mansfield had both died prior to her marriage, but her step mother, Lady Mary Lindsay was alive until 1799, but there is no surviving evidence to confirm that she and Dido had any contact at all.

Upon Lady Lindsay’s death, Dido’s half siblings, John (1767-1821) and Elizabeth Lindsay, later Hill (1766-1842) were named her will, but curiously, Dido was not. Perhaps Lady Lindsay simply assumed her step daughter, Dido, had been sufficiently provided for by both Lord Mansfield and her husband during their lives.

It’s very clear that Dido’s half siblings, John and Elizabeth were in contact with each other as noted in John’s will, left when he died in India.

I bequeath to my sister, Mrs Eliza Hill of Edinburgh ...
I bequeath to my sister, Mrs Eliza Hill of Edinburgh …

Curiously, John had named his half sister, Elizabeth who was by that time Mrs Peter Hill, but no mention was made of his other half sister, Dido.

Peter Hill, Merchant, New Kirk Parish and Elizabeth Palmer (same parish) alias Lindsay) Daughter of Sir John Lindsay
Peter Hill, Merchant, New Kirk Parish and Elizabeth Palmer (same parish) alias Lindsay) Daughter of Sir John Lindsay

We know for certain that Elizabeth was Sir John’s illegitimate daughter from her marriage entry above, (Scottish records being more detailed than English ones,) sadly, no such tangible documentary evidence exists from Dido’s marriage.

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.
Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany. The portrait hangs at Scone Palace in Perthshire.

Her cousin, Lady Elizabeth with whom she shared the famous portrait, had married George Finch-Hatton some eight year previously, and although they were obviously close whilst at Kenwood House, although there appears to be nothing left to history to confirm that they ever kept in touch after Lady Elizabeth married, but then their lives took very different paths, with Lady Elizabeth marrying into an aristocratic family and Dido marrying John Daviniere, who was a servant at the time of their marriage.

Sadly, there is also nothing tangible to confirm that Dido had any contact with her half siblings, but as Elizabeth was in Scotland and John, out in Indian with their respective families, so perhaps this is not really surprising given the geography. This would have left Dido with few known contracts, despite her previous social standing as the great niece of one of the most affluent and influential men in the country and living in the grand, Kenwood House.

With a lack of information about her possible acquaintances after her marriage, especially any contact with family and at present there is no knowledge of her  having many, if any, friends, the only people left to provide any clues, are her neighbours in Pimlico.

Ranelagh Street North was newly built when John and Dido moved into their home. Looking at the 1798 Land Redemption Tax return for example, it appears to have been somewhat cheaper to live on Ranelagh Street, than other streets in the surrounding area including Ranelagh Street South.

Land Tax Redemption Office: Quotas and Assessments, IR23; Piece: 54

Whilst it is difficult to be certain, as no house number was given in this advert, but presumably their new home would have been similar to this one, advertised in the Morning Post, August 1800.

The search began with the rates book from 1794 when they moved there, up to around 1807, by which time it is known that John and their two sons had moved out following the death of Dido.

London Land Tax Records 1794. London Metropolitan Archives.

The first interesting piece of information I found, was that when John Daviniere left 14 Ranelagh Street North, Pimlico, the new occupants were a Martha and James White, a  gardener. Martha had married James in November 1794 at the same church that Dido and John had married at in 1793.

However, the land tax return for 1805 shows not only Daviniere as resident of Ranelagh Street, but also James White, as can be seen below.

London Land Tax Records. London Metropolitan Archives.

Why is this relevant? Well, in the marriage register for Dido, the marriage was witnessed by a Martha Darnell, and it transpires that it was this Martha, who went on to marry James White, so it would certainly appear from this, that Dido and John remained in contact with Martha when she married her first husband, so much so, that after Dido’s death in 1804, the White’s moved into the house, perhaps to help care for the boys.

After the death of James at the end of 1808, Martha and her second husband, William Parkes remained in the property for a few years, until they completely vanished from the radar.

It seems feasible that Dido knew Martha from Kenwood House, where it’s possible Martha was a dairymaid or a ladies’ maid, and that maybe her first husband was one of the gardeners at Kenwood House too – pure speculation at this stage, but hopefully at some point tangible proof will come to light.

Another neighbour who lived near Dido and John was a John Mann, who was initially described as a perfumer, but by 1808 he had become a hairdresser and barber. He was clearly not operating his business from home as it’s known that he was renting out part of him home by this time, perhaps business wasn’t going so well.

It was in December 1808 that Mann’s life came to something of an abrupt end as we will now discover. The Hull Packet newspaper of 10 January 1809, amongst others carried reports of his demise.

A melancholy event occurred a few days since, at Pimlico, near London, accompanied with very extraordinary circumstance. Mr Mann, a hairdresser, who resided in Ranelagh Street, had, in consequence of a domestic misfortune, suffered mental derangement; but being, by medical aid, recovered, he had again resumed his occupation. A few morning since, he attended, as usual, to dress and shave several gentlemen in his neighbourhood, by whom he was much esteemed. He had, in all, dressed and shaved nine of his customers, the last of whom was Mr Palmer, of Drury Lane Theatre. Immediately upon his leaving Mr Palmer, he returned home, without attending to any of his other employers, and cut his own throat with one of his razors. The wound was so deep and extensive that he died in a few moments.

The gentlemen with whom he had been, all observed something very singular in his conduct: and there is no doubt that, during the whole of the morning, he was labouring under the terrible malady which induced him to put a period to his existence. Each of the nine has reason, therefore, to be thankful, that the razor was not applied to his neck, before the unfortunate maniac raised it against his own.

It’s not clear what the ‘domestic misfortune’ was, but it could have been connected to the death of his wife, Ann, who had died the previous year. Both John and Ann were buried at St George’s in the Fields, the same graveyard that Dido had been buried in a few years previously, in 1804.

Another of Dido and John’s neighbours was Anthony Fabiani, who, research shows, was one of the Treasury messengers, working directly for the 3rd Duke of Portland. Ranelagh Street was close to the Queen’s house, so arguably, it was a convenient place for him to live. Bentinck was a close friend of Sir John Lindsay during his lifetime and therefore may have been aware of Dido living in Ranelagh Street through Fabiani or government spies, and that she had a French husband.

Fabiani’s role was to be responsible for seeking out felons and taking them to prison, along with carrying documents the length and breadth of the country and travelling on behalf of the King and ministers all over Europe.  I first spotted his name in the Hampshire Chronicle, 28 July 1798, which noted that:

Tuesday morning a Captain Coppinger, of Ireland, brought a few days since from Guernsey, where he had been arrested on suspicion of being one of the leading men in the rebellion in that Kingdom found means to effect his escape from the house of Mr Fabiani, at Pimlico, one of the Treasury Messengers, where he was in custody. The charges against him are said to be of a most serious nature.

With a little more searching I discovered several arrest warrants issued by the 3rd Duke of Portland, which bore Fabiani’s name, as the messenger sent to apprehend them; most being wanted for High Treason. Interestingly on the subsequent page of warrants was a name that jumped out at me – Edward Marcus Despard.

Despard was famously arrested in 1798, not by Fabiani, but one of his colleagues, George Higgins. Despard was hanged for treason in 1803, despite pleas from his wife, Catherine, who, like Dido was a woman of colour.  It would be interesting to know whether Dido was familiar with Despard’s case and of Catherine, but it does seem quite likely that she would have read about it in the newspaper. Etienne has suggested that Dido’s husband, could possibly have been a spy, but of course, as  you can imagine, there’s no tangible evidence yet to support this but it’s an avenue he is pursuing.

Fabiani lived at No. 3 Ranelagh Street until just after the turn of the century when he moved to Silver Street, Golden Square, where he died in 1810 and again, like Dido, he too was buried at St George in the Fields on 3 November 1810.

At No. 19, lived a music seller, dealer and chapman, Louis Von Esch, who was declared bankrupt in 1796, but presumably life began to dramatically improve, as by the turn of the century his musical talent was recognised.

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales by George Dawe. © National Portrait Gallery, London.
Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales by George Dawe. © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Whilst it’s not conclusive, I’m fairly certain that this article in the Morning Chronicle of 1802, relates to Louis rather than his brother, Dominique, also a musician, and it would appear that he has become responsible for the musical education of Prince George’s daughter, Princess Charlotte:

It was around this time that he moved from Ranelagh Street and had moved to Edward Street.  The same year, Louis had joined the Freemasons at the Lodge De L’Esperance, an Ancient French Lodge, giving his occupation as composer of music, along with his brother, Dominique, a music master, the brothers being aged 37 and 33, respectively. Fellow members of the lodge included the artist, Domenico Pellegrini.

Pellegrini, Domenico; The Opera Box; Tabley House Collection

It would appear that Louis’s music was extremely popular at the time. He socialised in the upper echelons of society and would eventually travel to Milan and the Palace of Visconti, which was where his life reached its conclusion in 1829.

Another long term resident of Ranelagh Street, living at no. 22, so just a few door away from Dido and John, was the watch and clock maker, George Philip Strigel. The couple would, more than likely, have known him in passing at least, as the elderly gentleman who made clocks and Watchmaker to Queen Charlotte.

Courtesy of Tobias Birch.com
Courtesy of Tobias Birch.com

According to the Royal Collection Trust, Strigel was described as the ‘blunt, high-dried, honest German’ who ‘had the care of his majesty’s clocks’. He was apparently, once interrupted by the George III whilst attending to a clock dial at Buckingham House, ‘standing upon a stool, placed upon a table, his hands extended above his head’ as he adjusted a clock dial in Buckingham House.

He was made an honorary freeman of the Clockmakers’ Company in 1771 – conferred on those who the Company believed could help to advance its interests – socially and influentially.

Maybe John and Dido even purchased a clock from him for their new home, who knows.  Strigel died in 1798, and like other residents, was buried on 23 December 1798 at St George in the Fields.

In addition to these, Paula Byrne noted in her book, ‘Belle‘, that other neighbours included, the miniature painter and engraver, Charles Wilkins, an architect, George Shakespeare and probably the most interesting characters of all, was the herbalist, Mrs Ringenberig, who examined morning urine from which she could provide cures for female complaints – I wonder if Dido ever used her services?

Wednesday, June 19, 1793
Wednesday, June 19, 1793

Overall, Ranelagh Street appears to have housed an eclectic mix of trades people people. In addition to the ones above, there was Benjamin Butcher, the landlord of the King’s Head public house; David Black, a baker, who lived next door to John and Dido, at No. 15, along with his wife Lavinia. William Pickard,  a grocer, who, along with David Black was witness to James White’s will in 1808.  Then there was George Smith, a greengrocer, John Bird, a pork man, Charles Clark, a butcher and Thomas Lea, a Cheeseman.

Hopefully, this post will provide a glimpse into the lives of some of the people that Dido and John would have rubbed shoulders with whilst living in Pimlico and it would appear that several residents were employed by the royal family with others employed in a whole variety of roles. Needless to say, apart from her friend, Martha, no women are named, that is because none are known of as yet, but it would be difficult to believe that she had no female acquaintances.

Etienne Daly has found out that Margaret, Dowager Duchess of Portland was a close friend to Lord and Lady Mansfield, and that she was also a good friend to the ‘blue stocking’, Mary Delany and that both women visited Kenwood House whilst Dido was living there, so would most likely have met her, or at least been aware of her presence within the household.  The Dowager’s son, 3rd Duke of Portland was mentioned earlier, so would possibly have known that Dido lived in Pimlico, but there is no substantiated evidence of this.

To find out more about the lives of Dido Elizabeth Belle, her family and descendants, click in this link. 


Manchester Mercury 9 August 1796

London Courier and Evening Gazette 29 June 1802

Royal Collection Trust

Byrne, Paula. Belle: The True Story of Dido Belle

Dido Elizabeth Belle

The Descendants of Dido Elizabeth Belle

A question that is frequently asked is, ‘are any of Dido Elizabeth Belle’s descendants still alive?’ The answer in short is no. Today, I thought it worth providing a somewhat lengthy, but nevertheless potted genealogy, to explain how her family line died out. Be prepared, it’s not always an easy read in parts. At the end is a family tree for reference.

We begin with the birth of her 3 boys. In 1795, Dido, by then simply known as Elizabeth, (as seen below), gave birth to twins, John and Charles Daviniere. Nothing is really known of what became of John, although it would appear that he died when relatively young, although exactly when remains unknown. It is now known that he was still alive after Dido’s death in 1804, but for how long we have no idea.

City of Westminster Archives Centre; London, England; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: STG/PR/2/5

Their third child, William Thomas Daviniere, was baptised on 26 January 1800 at St George’s Hanover Square, London. His date of birth is less clear from the parish register, it was either 17 December 1799 or 17 January 1800*.

City of Westminster Archives Centre; London, England; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: CCDS/PR/3/4

William Thomas and his family appear to have simply melted into history leaving little trace of their existence, with many places simply noting that William Thomas:

joined the East India Company, married a widow, Fanny Graham, and had a daughter, Emily. Emily died unmarried in 1870, several years after the death of her parents.

Was that the entirety of a life, just a couple of sentences to cover the lives of three people?  Surely, there had to be a little more to the lives of Dido’s boys.

It is probably quite safe to assume that William would have undertaken his education with his older brother, Charles, at a school for young gentlemen in Pimlico, where they studied, amongst other subjects, mathematics. That would have William in good stead for his future employment. However, whilst evidence survives for Charles, no similar account has survived for William Thomas, but it’s unlikely that one son attended school and the other didn’t.

British India Office Births & Baptisms – L-MIL-9-123

In 1811, Charles joined the East India Company and was sent to India as an ensign in the army. William Thomas would have been still living at the family home, 31 Edgware Road, London, with his father John, Jane Holland (his father’s new partner, as they didn’t marry until 1819), and his two half siblings, Edward and Lavinia.

Whilst still in India, in 1817, Charles achieved promotion to lieutenant, but it would be a further 10 years before he achieved further advancement. Unlike his grandfather, Sir John Lindsay, Charles didn’t achieve rapid promotion.  It was the same year in which Lady Anne Murray, niece to Lord Mansfield died, leaving £50 to each of Dido’s boys.

East India House, Leadenhall Street

On 16 December 1818, the day before his 19th birthday, William Thomas was appointed to the post of a writer, in the Bengal warehouse of the East India Company, in London. He remained in this post for just two years before transferring to the Tea warehouse on 5 January 1821.

In 1823, Thomas was also a beneficiary in another will. This time he was joint beneficiary with a George Bremner, the godson of a Mrs Susan Douse, nee Awood. Susan’s late husband was Thomas Douse, who had worked for Lord Mansfield at Kenwood House for a number of years.

Kenwood House. Courtesy of Visit London.com

Susan appears to have had little to leave, but what she did have was split between the two young men. William Thomas also received her books and a miniature portrait of the late Earl of Mansfield, who had died a few years prior to Williams’ birth, but Susan must have thought it important enough to leave it to him, perhaps as a reminder of his late mother and her connection to Lord Mansfield. 

What this will tells us is that despite Dido’s death, at least one servant’s wife retained contact with one of Dido’s boys, but it’s curious that Susan left nothing for Charles. Perhaps this was either because he was in India and she didn’t think given how little she had, that it was worthwhile, or maybe she was just closer to Dido’s youngest child. It has always struck me as curious that Dido wasn’t mentioned in either her father’s will or that of his wife, Lady Mary nor the will of 2nd Lord Mansfield, so it’s lovely to see that someone close to the family remembered her.

PROB 11/1665/157

Three years later, on 20 August 1824, William Thomas progressed in his career and was appointed as an extra clerk in the auditor’s office. Then, just one year later, he applied for and achieved the vacant post of established clerk in the Accountant General’s Office. He took up this post on 10 August 1825, his skills having been assessed by an accountant, Daniel MacLaurin, as can be seen below. He clearly demonstrated that he was the ideal candidate.

Home Establishment Petitions for Clerkships at East India House. J-1-20

83 Lombard Street

10 August 1825

These are to certify that I have carefully examined Mr W.T Daviniere as to his knowledge of book-keeping by double entry and have found him fully competent to explain and properly to state any question put to him upon that subject.

Daniel MacLaurin

The company was owned by Duncan MacLaurin until his demise in December 1823, at which time his brother, Daniel, took the reins. There’s no explanation offered as to why MacLaurin made the assessment though.

In 1834 Charles returned from India for two years, perhaps on leave or possibly for health reasons. As to where he stayed in England remains unknown, but presumably at the family home.

There is an interesting baptismal entry for a William Charles Graham, on 25 July 1834 stating that his parents are William Thomas (gent.) and Fanny Matilda Graham of Regent Street. More about this curious entry later.

Baptism for William Charles Graham. Parents named William Thomas and Fanny Matilda Graham, Regent Street London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P89/MRY1/035

It was in 1836 that, whilst in England, Charles married Miss Hannah Nash, a young woman some 20 years his junior. The couple were married by licence at St Mary Abbot’s church, Kensington. Whilst it’s not been possible to ascertain anything further about Hannah’s background, her father, John Nash who was named on the marriage certificate, lived at 119 Crawford Street. Hannah appears to have been the youngest of 10 children.

British India Office Marriages. Entry Number – 1411

The wedding was very much a family affair with Hannah’s brother Rev. George Edward Nash conducting ceremony, and, along with others, William Thomas was present. Following the marriage, the newlyweds returned to India, where Charles resumed his army post. Just over a year later, Charles and Hannah’s first child, Ada Hannah was born, but tragically she only survived for five months.

In September of 1837, William married Miss Fanny Graham, the daughter of the late William Graham of Portsmouth, about whom nothing seems to be known as yet. William Thomas’ half-brother, Edward, returned from Ducey, France, where the family were now living, to witness the marriage, along with Elizabeth Graham, one of Fanny’s’ sisters.

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P89/CTC/064
London Evening Standard 11 September 1837

In 1838, Charles and Hannah had their second child, another girl, Lavinia Hannah, again, born in India, and the following year they produced a son, Charles George, both of whom we will return to later.

It would be a just a few months later, on 17 January 1840, whilst living at 25 North Bank, London that William and Fanny had their one and only acknowledged child, Emily Helen perhaps taking her middle name Helen, as a nod to her maternal aunt.

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P89/CTC/049

Their little family appeared together on the 1841 census. Living with them, apart from their daughter Emily, was another child, the William Charles Graham, previously mentioned. Sadly the 1841 census was fairly basic and provided little information about family relationships, so no clues there, annoyingly.

By the end of 1841, Charles, still in India, had eventually been promoted to Major, but was subsequently reported to have been an invalid and no longer on active duty. In 1845 he retired on health grounds from the army. The family returned to England and set up home at 2 Lansdowne Villas, Kensington, before moving around 1851 to number 5 and eventually settling at number 10 Lansdowne Road. It would appear that poor health had been an issue for much of his career.

By the 1851 census, there was no sign of the William Graham living with William and Fanny, so it has to be assumed that he had been sent off to school somewhere. Later that year, William Thomas applied for a passport, so presumably he was he planning a trip over to Ducey, France, to sort out the estate of his late step mother, Jane née Holland, who had died in March. His father, John Daviniere having died several years previously.

The following year a report was published by the Select Committee on Indian Territories which showed that William Thomas was earning a good salary in his role in the Accounts Branch. His annual salary was noted as being £600, which equates to around £50,000 in today’s money.

In April 1860 Charles’ son, Charles George, aged 20, had joined the Civil Service as a temporary clerk. It seems clear that he would follow in his uncle’s footsteps rather than joining the army as his father had done.

According to the 1861 census William Charles Graham had reappeared back at the home of William Thomas, as their nephew and was working as a commercial clerk. If William Charles was their nephew, then who and where were his parents? Fanny had two siblings, Elizabeth and Helen Graham, neither of whom married. Could one of them have been his mother, but was presented for baptism by Charles and Fanny using Fanny’s maiden name? A mystery which may well never be solved.

That year, William Thomas’ published salary, having worked for 41 years, had risen to £900 per annum with an associated pension of £800 per annum. This would have left William Thomas and his family quite comfortably off. It was during that year that William Thomas retired. They were living at 18 Blomfield Road, Paddington, along with their daughter, Emily and William Charles Graham. The family had two employees, Anne Hoare, their cook/domestic servant and Jemima Lock, housemaid.

In May 1862 William Thomas was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society. Perhaps on retirement he had found a very enjoyable pastime. From the very helpful RHS Library staff we now know that:

Members, or Fellows as they were officially known from 1809, had to be proposed by three or more Fellows, and elected by ballot; the membership fee on admission was five guineas, with annual supplements of two guineas (raised to three in 1818). A Fellow could make a single payment of twenty guineas (raised to thirty in 1818), thereby becoming a Life Fellow. Such fees could only be afforded by the well-to-do.

Sadly, they hold no further information about his membership, so whether he only remained a member for the one year, or until his death, the records don’t tell us.

In addition to his work and hobbies, this he was also the company secretary of the Hendre DDU Slate and Slab Quarry Company in Wales.

London Daily News – Friday 24 January 1862
W T Daviniere. Secretary

We know very little about William Thomas’s family’s social life apart from one small mention in the Brighton Gazette, 6 April 1865, which refers to fashionable arrivals. This would seem to indicate that Fanny, Emily and William Charles Graham went off to Brighton without William Thomas. They stayed at the Cavendish Mansion, a boarding house on Cavendish Place run by divorcee Mrs Mary Ann Wrench and her partner Julia Hely.

William Thomas died on 10 September 1867. His death certificate gave cause of death as paralysis for 5 years, 2nd attack, 2 years and final attack 3 hours.  The term paralysis could well have meant that he had suffered several strokes leading ultimately to his death. Present at his death and informant was not his wife, but William Charles Graham who was still living with the family at that time.

ⓒ Sarah Murden’s own collection

His death was followed just 18 months later by the death of his beloved wife, Fanny, the cause of death being attributed to ‘general decay commencing 5 years ago’ – a euphemism for old age, Fanny was 69. It sounds as if the couple suffered from poor health for the final years of their lives with no chance to enjoy their retirement.

William Thomas left a will in which he ensured that both his wife and daughter were provided for. Their ‘nephew’ William Charles Graham was provided for separately.

Tragically, their daughter Emily Helen, who inherited from her parents, was not to live much longer either and at the tender age of 30 died on 2 March 1870, whilst living at 13 Montpelier Road, Brighton where she was being cared for. The cause of death was given as a disease of the brain and extreme prostration. As Emily died intestate, her estate was administered by her uncle, Charles Daviniere.

Their nephew, if that’s what his relationship was to the family, William Charles Graham, a clerk, died a few weeks after Emily, on 10 September 1870 at the Middlesex hospital, exactly 3 years to the day after William Thomas died. Although not clear when he left the family home, he was living at 4 Upper Westbourne Terrace, Middlesex, until his demise. An inquest carried out by Edwin Lankster, determined the cause of death as being due to pneumonia, following an injury to his throat caused by a razor. His death was deemed to have been suicide, so it is highly unlikely that his true relationship to William Thomas Daviniere will ever be known.

It makes you wonder what drove him to such an action. Was it that the rest of his family were dead, or had he found out that William and Fanny were his parents? Guesswork here, of course.

Clearly his demise was planned, as the day before his death he wrote his will, leaving it in part to his friend, Charles Davinier junior and also the Charles’ sister, Lavinia, along with the family servant, Anne Hoare, who had worked for Daviniere’s for a number of years and to his aunt Elizabeth who was living at 27 Thayer Street, Manchester Square, with her sister Helen, of whom he made no mention. Elizabeth died the following year and her sister Helen, was beneficiary of her will.

Therefore, within a three year period an entire branch of the Daviniere family was gone.  That left just Dido’s son Charles, his wife Hannah and their 2 children, Charles George and Lavinia Hannah.

In the midst of all this grief, Charles’ son, Charles George Daviniere, married Helen Marion Parkinson on 30 August 1870. Helen was the daughter of dental surgeon, James Parkinson who hailed from a long line of dentist/surgeons of Racquet Court, Fleet Street. Helen joined him at his home, 22 Addison Road, Kensington. A little under a year later, the first of their children, Charles Lindsay Frederick was born, followed a year later by their first daughter, Marion Julia.

Homeward Mail from India, China and the East 10 September 1870

In January 1873, Dido’s eldest son, Charles died after a long suffered illness affecting his lungs, leaving his widow, Hannah to survive on an army pension of just £196 per annum along with Charles’ estate, as sole beneficiary, apart from a few small items such as his watch which went to his son.

In June 1874, Charles George and Helen had another daughter, Eva.

On 4 May 1875, Charles senior’s daughter, Lavinia Hannah married Dr James Dickson Steele, the prison doctor at HMP Woking. It’s lovely to note that his brother, William Johnstone Steele and wife, Catherine gave birth to a son about the same time, who they named James Dickson Daviniere Steele, an acknowledgement of his brother and soon to be sister-in-law. However, this joy was to have been very short lived as their son only survived just four months, dying on 22 August 1875.

In January 1876, Charles George and Helen produced another daughter, Maud Florence Mary. More tragedy was just around the corner for the family, when Charles George’s sister, Lavinia Hannah died on 20 February 1876 aged just 37 from myeloma and purpura. Her death took place just ten days before after her mother, Hannah, wrote her will, appointing her son, Charles George Daviniere and her nephew, Francis Charles Bescoby, the son of her sister, Charlotte, as her trustees. She couldn’t possibly have been aware of what was to come, but she never amended her will after the death of her daughter, so the estate went to her son in its entirety when she died on 14 November 1883.  

In 1877, Charles George and Helen had a second son, Herbert Lionel, closely followed on 20 August 1878 by another son, Percy Angus. Sadly, shortly after his birth Herbert Lionel died. 

In 1880, the couple had another daughter, Maud Florence Mary. By the 1881 census this ever growing family moved to possibly a larger property at 15 Norland Square, Kensington. Three years later another child was born, Glady Annette Louis. The name Louis was perhaps a nod to her great grandfather, Dido’s husband, John Louis Daviniere.

Their final child, yet another Charles, this one being Charles Crawford, was born on 19 October 1886.

In 1895, their eldest son, Charles Lindsay Fredrick, always referred to, at least by his siblings, as Lindsay, set sail for South Africa as a sergeant in the army. Whilst there, in 1911 he met and married Lilian Raddrock and the couple had Harold Charles Bertrand Daviniere in 1913 who was to become Dido’s last surviving descendant.

Charles George Daviniere died on 16 January 1899, aged 59 at 54 Lansdowne Road, formerly of Addison Road. His estate was left solely to his wife Hannah. Hannah then moved to 15 Ladbrooke Square, Kensington.

What became of Charles George and Helen’s other children?

Percy Angus attended St Paul’s School, London until 1892 and died unmarried in 1904, just before his 26th birthday, and almost 100 years after the death of Dido Elizabeth Belle.  His death was registered by his mother, in London. The cause of death being phthisis (tuberculosis) and his estate such as it would have been, given his age, was left to his mother.

There is an entry for Percy Kelly’s Trade Directory 1904, the year he died, at Duxford, Cambridgeshire as what appears to be, the joint licensee of The Red Lion, Whittlesford Bridge, along with a Helmuth von Bühler, son of a captain of the German army. Despite this entry for The Red Lion, Percy was employed as a clerk in the Union Bank of Scotland, so it has to be assumed that he was in Cambridge briefly, perhaps somewhere to escape the smog of the city or perhaps he and Helmuth were business partners, since Helmut lived in nearby Norland Square.

In 1932, Charles George’s wife, Helen died.  Their second daughter, Eva never married. Itt would appear that she had been a language teacher, but by 1939 she was a patient in St Bernard’s’ hospital, Southall, a psychiatric hospital, where she remained until her death in 1946, aged 72.

Marion Julia, their first daughter, never married. In her 40’s she became involved with the Church League for Women’s Suffrage. She died on 29 February 1940, aged 67 and left her estate to her siblings Maud, Gladys and Lindsay and also in trust for Lindsay’s son, Harold Charles.

It is known that Charles Crawford attended the Sir John Gresham Grammar School at Holt, Norfolk for a couple of years from 1901-1903. As to what occupation he followed after leaving school is still to be uncovered. He died, unmarried, in 1937. He had been living at 9 Inkerman Terrace, Kensington with his sister Marion Julia.

He left £50 to be split equally between his brother Charles Lindsay, but should he be dead prior to this it should go directly to his wife Lillian and their son Harold, split equally. To Harold he left and additional £50. To his sister, Florence, he left her 2 shares in Army and Navy Stores, plus his gold cufflinks and is small signet ring.  To Marion, his large signet ring and pearl pin. To Maud his amethyst tie pin and onyx studs and buttons. To Gladys £100 a pair of cuff links and a small French clock.  To her husband Charles Pletts £10 and his silver wine taster and silver wine strainer. Apart from a few gifts to friends, the remainder of his estate was to be sold and the money split between his siblings, with the exception of Eva. Her share was to be used by the trustees for her benefit, so we can only assume this was because she was deemed mentally incapacitated by this time.

Gladys Annette married an army officer, Charles Menham Pletts and died in 1958, but the couple had no children, so her line died out with her.

In 1911, Maud was working as a school matron at the South Acton Day Nursery which had opened in 1908 in the poorest part of Acton. The post of matron was funded by Norland who have very kindly confirmed that Maud began her training there in December 1895 and awarded the Norland Institute certificate on 9 December 1896, so they would have had a hand in appointing Maud to this post. By 1939 she was described as being a retired welfare worker and again, unmarried. Maud died in 1970 at Smiles Home for Invalid Ladies, Maybury Hill, Woking. Her will made provision for her nephew, Harold Charles and several cousins, who appear to be to have been related to her sister, Gladys’s husband side of the family.

Charles Lindsay’s son, Harold Charles Bertram Daviniere was in the army as a private, during WWII, and was a prisoner of war in Stalag 342, Lamsdorf, Poland from 1942.

After the war he returned to South Africa and married an Elma Beeton in 1949, in South Africa, where he worked as a motor mechanic and lived at 1 Doreen Court, 68 Garden Street, Rosettenville, Johannesburg. He left an estate worth 4,750 rand, which, at the time of writing this equates to about £250. He and his wife had no children. Elma died shortly after her husband.

Therefore, the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle began with her mother Maria Belle, a slave and ended on 17 February 1975 in South Africa, with Dido’s great-great-grandson a former prisoner of war.

If this piece whetted your appetite to find out more about Dido Elizabeth Belle, you will find more articles here on All Things Georgian, by clicking on this highlighted link.


City of Westminster Archives Centre; London, England; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: CCDS/PR/3/4

University of London; London, England; The East India Register and Directory for 1826 Mason, A.W. and Brown, G.H.; Reference Number: Rb1696511 1826

 Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1665

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P89/MRY1/035

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P89/CTC/064

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P89/MRY1/101

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P89/CTC/049

Class: HO107; Piece: 678; Book: 2; Civil Parish: St Marylebone; County: Middlesex; Enumeration District: 2; Folio: 12; Page: 18; Line: 12; GSU roll: 438794

Class: HO107; Piece: 1491; Folio: 546; Page: 29; GSU roll: 87819-87820

Class: HO107; Piece: 1468; Folio: 791; Page: 53; GSU roll: 87790-87791

Class: RG 9; Piece: 14; Folio: 156; Page: 22; GSU roll: 542556

Class: RG 9; Piece: 5; Folio: 66; Page: 7; GSU roll: 542554

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: DL/T/041/038

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: DL/T/041/035

1871 England Census; Class: RG10; Piece: 38; Folio: 46; Page: 5; GSU roll: 838761

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: DL/T/041/037

Deceased Online; United Kingdom; Deceased Online Burial Indexes (Emily Helen Daviniere)

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: DL/T/041/038

Header Image

The full portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle hangs at Scone Palace in Perthshire.


* Etienne Daly is of the opinion that William Thomas was born on 17 December 1800 as noted on his grave and that the baptism record of 26 January 1800 must therefore be incorrect, this would mean that William Thomas couldn’t have been baptised in January 1800 and that the date of birth on his gravestone must be the correct one. His death certificate, however, confirms his age at death as 67 i.e. born either at the end of 1799 or the beginning of 1800. He also notes that William Thomas was baptised on 26 January 1802, although there is no supporting evidence for this in the baptism registers. The census returns give his estimated age as – 40 in 1841, 50 in 1851 and 60 in 1861, so it leave a slight mystery as to which information was correct.


Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.

Lady Elizabeth Mary Murray

To date, I have written quite a few articles about Dido Elizabeth Belle, along with a few 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.

Henrietta daughter of Henry Graf Bunau. Painted by Marcello Bacciarelli in Warsaw in 1759. Countrylife June 10, 2013
Henrietta daughter of Henry Graf Bunau. Painted by Marcello Bacciarelli in Warsaw in 1759. Country Life June 10, 2013

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, who were able to give her a more stable upbringing, something that would have been extremely difficult given her father’s ambassadorial post.

Caenwood House 1786 European Magazine Volume 9 - January-June
Caenwood House 1786 European Magazine Volume 9 – January-June

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.

Mary Hamilton’s diary of Saturday 7th August 1784 provides a tiny glimpse into how others viewed Lady Elizabeth. It does have to be noted though that throughout Mary Hamilton’s whilst there are plenty of  mentions of Lady Elizabeth or letters by her, Hamilton never mentions Dido at all.

As ye. Servant. told me Lord Stormont’s Daughter — was come from Ken-
Wood. I went in for a few Minutes. I found her in the library writing to relations to acquaint them of Lady Stormont being brought to bed — She told me she wrote ye. first letter to me yesterday to me — but Lord Stormont would not let her send it as he had written himself. Miss Murray told me she had seen Lady Stormont this Morning. & that she & ye. dear babe were charming well. She promised to give my love to Lord & Lady Stormont, she goes back to
Ken-Wood but is to come to Town every Morning. Miss Murray is Lord Stormont’s only child by his first wife who died when she was very young. She is near a year older than her mother in law — about 26 or 7. She lives with Lord Mansfield & was educated by the ye. late Lady Mansfield & two of Lord Stormont’s Sisters who also reside with Lord Mansfield. She is pleasing, good humour’d — well accomplished, & conducts herself with  that propriety which ought to distinguish a woman of fashion & good education.

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, the true love of his life. There is a memorial to both the earl and Henrietta at Scone. I do wonder how Louisa, his second wife, must have felt about that!

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

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.

Abbott, Lemuel Francis; The Honourable Robert Fulke Greville (1751-1797); National Trust, Calke Abbey

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 (the £10,000 payment is also confirmed in Lord Mansfield’s account book, dated 16 December 1785),  plus £7,000 from her father (about 1.5 million pounds in today’s money).

Sussex Advertiser,  26 December 1785

Lady Elizabeth Murray marriage entry in parish register of St Gile's in the Fields, Holborn, confirming that they married in the home of Lord Mansfield

Lady Elizabeth Murray marriage entry in parish register of St Gile’s in the Fields, Holborn, confirming that they married at the home of Lord MansfieldFollowing 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.

Richardson the elder, Jonathan; Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham and 7th Earl of Winchilsea; National Portrait Gallery, London

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 referred to by Lady Anne Murray in a letter of 6 January 1789, which she wrote to Mary Hamilton:

The Mary Hamilton Papers HAM/1/5/2/15

She was also 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.

George Finch Hatton 10th Earl. National Portrait Gallery
George Finch Hatton 10th Earl. National Portrait Gallery

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.

The field of Battersea. Duke of Wellington as a lobster. British Museum
The field of Battersea. Duke of Wellington as a lobster. British Museum

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.

Haverholme Priory in an 1826 sketch in The Gentleman's Magazine
Haverholme Priory in an 1826 sketch in The Gentleman’s Magazine, now a ruin

Today, in the neighbouring village of Ewerby, is a village pub named after the family, The Finch Hatton Arms, which was apparently used by the family as a hunting lodge.

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 1826, she married a vicar, Alfred Charnley Lawrence, who was the rector of Sandhurst, Kent.  The couple had three children and Emily died in 1868.

Lady Elizabeth Finch Hatton calling card British Museum
Lady Elizabeth Finch Hatton’s calling card British Museum

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.

Samuel Hieronymus Grimm’s 1787 depiction of Marlborough House, Brighton. Illustration: courtesy of the British Library. Previously owned, until his death by W G Hamilton MP (1729-1796)
Samuel Hieronymus Grimm’s 1787 depiction of Marlborough House, Brighton. Illustration: courtesy of the British Library. Previously owned, until his death by W G Hamilton MP (1729-1796) Shortly after it was purchased by Lady Anne Murray.

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.

A View of the Earl of Radnor's House at Twickenham. Yale Center for British Art
A View of the Earl of Radnor’s House at Twickenham. Yale Center for British Art

Lady Anne’s sister, Lady Margery, who had purchased Radnor House, Twickenham after the death of Lord Mansfield, died in 1799, was also clearly very fond of Dido as she too left her £100 in her will.

To the late Mrs Daviniere's three boys fifty pounds each
Click to enlarge. ‘To the late Mrs Daviniere’s three boys fifty pounds each’

George Finch Hatton died in 1823 and Lady Elizabeth Mary, just two years later in Edinburgh.

Old Parish Registers Deaths 685/1 1000 17 Edinburgh
Old Parish Registers Deaths 685/1 1000 17 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.

Extract from Elizabeth's will re miniature of her mother for Anna Maria. Click to enlarge
Extract from Elizabeth’s will re miniature of her mother for Anna Maria. Click to enlarge

One final snippet of information, Lady Elizabeth Mary’s great grandson, Denys Finch Hatton (1887-1931) the son of Henry Stormont Finch-Hatton, 13th Earl of Winchilsea and 8th Earl of Nottingham (1852 – 1927), 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

Header Image

Dido Elizabeth Belle. The portrait hangs at Scone Palace in Perthshire.


HMS Dido

Today I once again welcome back Etienne Daly who has been using the ‘lockdown’ very productively continuing his research into Dido Elizabeth Belle and in particular his eye was drawn to the frigate HMS Dido. So, I’ll hand over to him tell you more about his findings:

The ‘lockdown’ and Covid-19 may have forced people to be at home, but for me it turned out to be advantageous because it allowed me time to read some books on admirals that I’d been meaning to do for a while now.

John Jervis, Earl of St Vincent. National Portrait Gallery

John Jervis, Earl of St Vincent. National Portrait Gallery

It was whilst I was reading a book on Earl St. Vincent, known, many years earlier to Sir John Lindsay, simply as John Jervis, that I discovered the frigate HMS Dido. I never knew such a ship existed so was keen to find out more.

I was already aware that both Lord and Lady Mansfield had ships named after them, with Lord Mansfield attending the launch of his, one of the largest of the East Indiamen ships, in 1777 at Rotherhithe and it was this which made me wonder whether HMS Dido could have any connection to Dido Elizabeth Belle and with that, the research began.

HMS 'Dido' and 'Lowestoft' in action with 'Minerve' and 'Artemise', 24 June 1795. National Maritime Museum
HMS ‘Dido’ and ‘Lowestoft’ in action with ‘Minerve’ and ‘Artemise’, 24 June 1795. National Maritime Museum

Sensing this could be linked to Dido Elizabeth Belle, the first thing I needed to establish was whether any ship been given this name in the past, if there was it meant this was not the case and merely a new ship named carrying an older name of Dido. There wasn’t any such ship named in the past and prior to checking this I noted that timeline as being perfect  for the naming of the frigate, notably 1782, 1784, 1785  finally 1787 – all in the ‘catchment time zone’ that I will go on to explain shortly.

Before I do, it’s best to explain first that in the 18th century to progress in life you needed one or all of these: patronage, privilege, grace and favours and if possible, a sprinkling of nepotism from an influential relative or three  this was especially the case in the Royal Navy and the army (during his years of First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Sandwich kept a patronage book). Three lords had to sign an admiralty order(and/or request)to get things in motion and Sir John would have been well acquainted with all of them.

Just a point of interest worth mentioning, in August 1779, there was a ship launched named HMS Montagu during the tenure of Lord Sandwich, which, being the first lord of the admiralty was almost certainly named in his honour.

Naval Triumph, or Favours Confer'd. 13 Nov 1780 Royal Collection Trust
Naval Triumph, or Favours Confer’d. 13 Nov 1780 Royal Collection Trust

At the time of the new incoming government of April 1782, the Whig government, headed by the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham all of these elements were in place, in fact Lord Rockingham was a relative of Lord and Lady Mansfield by marriage and this made him Dido’s uncle. To add to this the marquis was a regular visitor to the Mansfield’s at Caenwood House, Hampstead. He in turn would know Dido’s father, Sir John Lindsay, very well.

Portrait of Charles Watson-Wentworth (1730–1782)
Portrait of Charles Watson-Wentworth (1730–1782)

The next influential person was the new First Lord of the Admiralty, Admiral  Augustus Keppel, who knew Rockingham well and Sir John Lindsay even more so, both being in service during the Seven Years War (1756-1763), in the Caribbean, and to make things even  more ‘pally’ was the fact that prior to 1782 they lived only ten minutes from each other in Mayfair. Keppel also left Sir John his sword, walking stick and a Richard Paton naval painting in his will.

Sir John Lindsay
Sir John Lindsay

Next you have to understand that if the admiralty was the right arm of  the senior service, then the navy board was the left, and in there as surveyor and designer to the Royal Navy was Sir John Williams, who knew all mentioned quite well over the years, he designed the 28-gun frigate that was going to be called HMS Dido. Not here, the ship was not named HMS Queen Dido nor HMS Dido, Queen of Carthage, but simply HMS Dido. This name would have been vague had it not been named that way because it was named after a living person, and not named after a mythical queen. This living person was Dido Elizabeth Belle who, when the ship was ordered on 5 June 1782 would turn 21 years old just over three weeks later.

Dido Elizabeth Belle
Dido Elizabeth Belle. The portrait hangs at Scone Palace in Perthshire.

It was said that, when Lord Sandwich was in office, he would flick through the pages of Lemprière’s Classical Dictionary, looking for names to give ships. This was very much the sort of method used in the 18th century as names were plucked and agreed upon by arbitration, it wasn’t until the 19th century that a department was formed to name ships.

Prior to ordering the frigate relative paperwork, and by no means fully detailed as explained, would have landed on the desk of Admiral Keppel for his approval, perhaps cursory signature followed, but the naming of this frigate would have been fully agreed well in advance. Sir John would have known this.

For whilst Dido’s father was no longer on active service since April 1779, the same time as his close friend Keppel resigned his services, Sir  John was since the August of the previous year, 1781, a ‘Colonel of Marines’ a sinecure given to those deemed  worthy of such a role by their past naval service, this position was offered to him by the king himself, who I’ll  mention, as a patron and influence to Sir John a little later.

For now, Keppel drew up a list of naval officers he wished to employ with immediate effect and on that list at the top for captains/commodores was the name of Sir John Lindsay KB and other names followed after. It hasn’t been fully discovered yet why Sir John didn’t take up this offer but the whole list was presented to the First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Rockingham, who would have seen this familiar name on the list  – it’s safe to say that Lindsay could have had the job that April 1782 rather than a year later as a lord of the admiralty in 1783. Being a wealthy man, perhaps Lindsay was content for the time being as Colonel of Marines, but Keppel and Sir John would definitely have been in regular contact in those early days of a new Whig government.

Lord Mansfield, whilst a Tory, would have been contact with his relative the new premier, as mentioned Rockingham often dined at Caenwood House, and certainly would have met his niece Dido there.  When seeing the approval of the name HMS Dido for a small ship by Keppel with Sir John’s instigation, it would have been immediately sanctioned and passed. All parties involved would have agreed by arbitration leaving nobody else to challenge the decision save jeopardising their career and patronage.

George III in 1781 Johann Hurter Royal Collection Trust.jpg
George III in 1781 Johann Hurter Royal Collection Trust.jpg

Back now to the king, he was Commander in Chief of the Royal Navy and whilst not getting involved in everyday events at the admiralty he would certainly be aware of the naming of ships a well as promoting officers of the rank. The king was a regular visitor to the Mansfield’s at Caenwood House as Lord Mansfield was to the king at St. James’s Palace, the Queen’s House and at Kew Palace.

The king and queen would probably have met Dido on their visits to the Mansfield’s, so her name wouldn’t sound strange in 1782 when a frigate is passed and ordered by the admiralty lords called HMS Dido. It’s also worth noting that the king’s governess, Lady Charlotte Finch, was related to the Countess Mansfield by marriage, having married Lady Betty’s brother William.

Lady Charlotte Finch. Royal Collection Trust
Lady Charlotte Finch. Royal Collection Trust

Lady Charlotte was governess to the princes/princesses for 30 years, so she too would have visited the Mansfield’s with her husband, so you can see now where the patronage is coming from and why there would have been no obstacles in the way of naming a ship, in this case HMS Dido and on the month of her 21st birthday and no longer a minor.

A View of Kenwood, the Seat of the Earl of Mansfield, in the county of Middlesex
A View of Kenwood, the Seat of the Earl of Mansfield, in the county of Middlesex. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The king and queen would, most likely have been aware of the ship’s naming  and who requested it, this brings them to Sir John Lindsay whom the king himself knighted in 1764, made a Knight of the Bath in 1770, and commodore with full command of  the East India Station and Gulf of Persia the previous year.

If that wasn’t enough, he was also representing the king as ‘ambassador’ to India with his dealings with both the crown prince of Arcot and the Honourable East India Company. He was also given full command of all marines stationed at Madras. Now this should tell you of the patronage, privilege, grace and favours bestowed upon Sir John Lindsay by the king and the nepotism of his uncle the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Mansfield. By now you should be able to see the people of influence involved of the initial influencer, Sir John and why all would agree upon the name choice.

Just the following year as the frigate was under construction in 1783, and through Admiral Keppel, Sir John accepted the role of commodore and commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, which greatly pleased the king. Was this in return for the king’s support in the naming of the vessel? We will never fully know, but we do know that the king often met with Sir John.

William Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, a Whig, became premier in April 1783 and was also a close friend of Sir John and had rented out his house in Mansfield Street to Sir John from June 1782 prior to him joining the administration in 1783 as an admiralty lord. As a close contact of Sir John he wouldn’t question his frigate request and would pass it unchallenged, leaving as mentioned no one else to question the final decision.

It’s also noting that Margaret, Dowager Duchess of Portland, William’s mother, was a very close friend of the Mansfield’s, especially Lady Betty, again showing influence in the right places. She would have most likely have met Dido often on her visits to Caenwood House.

Now to the timeline of events from that order in June 1782 for the frigate named HMS Dido. To start, by June 1782 peace overtures were in their early stages of ending the American War of Independence, but in the March, Dido’s aunt Margaret Ramsay died, starting off a cycle of deaths within the family.

In July 1782, the Marquess of Rockingham died. Margaret’s husband Allan Ramsay, the renowned artist, being Dido’s uncle would have been aware of the naming of the frigate.

HMS 'Dido' and 'Lowestoft' in action with 'Minerve' and 'Artemise', 24 June 1795 Royal Museums Greenwich
HMS ‘Dido’ and ‘Lowestoft’ in action with ‘Minerve’ and ‘Artemise’, 24 June 1795. Royal Museums Greenwich

The year 1783 saw Sir John made both Lord of the Admiralty and a commodore who by October that year headed off as Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet. In the meantime, in the previous 12 months the keel went down for the ship at Sandgate, Kent and construction was on the way.

1784 saw the death of Countess Mansfield in the April and Allan Ramsay in the August, so both would have been aware of the forthcoming frigate’s launch later that year but never got to experience it.

1785 saw the ship completed in the main and it was sent up to Royal Deptford dockyard for final finishing and coppering. That year was also the last year Lord Mansfield was in full office, as the following year he began working part-time from home, with Dido’s assistance until a new chief justice was found. He resigned office in June 1788.

Sir John Lindsay. Scone Palace
Sir John Lindsay. Scone Palace

Whilst Sir John returned from his command in late October 1784, he would have heard of the launching of HMS Dido on 27 November 1784 and have been kept aware of that ship’s progress well into 1787 when the frigate was now based at Portsmouth.

On 24 September 1787 HMS Dido was commissioned by the Royal Navy for service, and note, the very day that Sir John was promoted by the king to Rear Admiral of the Red – the highest promotion for a rear admiral. Whilst suffering from severe gout, Sir John remained in service albeit on terra firma, until his death on 4 June 1788, when returning from Bath after taking the waters.

Based upon my findings it was no coincidence that both the commissioning and Sir John’s promotion took places on the same day – in my opinion, it was planned that way.

There were 27 Enterprise frigates designed and built over the years, in batches but note the last batch of three frigates covered the period 1782-1783, just the very years that the Whigs were in power in government and all known or related to Sir John, (later an admiralty lord himself) and his daughter Dido.

All had an input in the naming, launching and the commissioning of the first ship ever named Dido in the Royal Navy to date.

John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich after Johan Joseph Zoffany. National Portrait Gallery
John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich after Johan Joseph Zoffany. National Portrait Gallery

It’s also worth noting that prior to the naming of the newly designed frigate by Sir John Williams, then to the request of naming, building, launching and commissioning was a certain recently retired first lord that knew all about it and knew it was patronage from start to finish was John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

During his career he was 3 times First Lord of the Admiralty and kept a personal ‘patronage book’ himself – I bet Sir John was in it, because he wrote to Lord Mansfield on 26th December 1780 from Blackheath, requesting Sir John rejoin the navy (after his resignation in 1779), as he was a naval officer of merit.

Oddly, Lord Sandwich came to live at Sir John’s house in Hertford Street after the North administration fell in March 1782 and stayed there till his death in 1792.

I doubt any paperwork exists that can fully confirm the order of the frigate and as names were plucked or discussed arbitrarily in the 18th century, the latter was more the case. There are too many coincidences in my findings overall, and many influential persons to be found with close links to Sir John and his quest to name a ship after his daughter in her 21st year, a year when she was no longer a minor.

It was also in 1782 that Dido was included in Lord Mansfield’s will, freeing her of any slavery in the future. So, Dido received two very good birthday presents for her 21st birthday.

Just one final items which demonstrates that Dido was not hidden away, but was known to Lord Mansfields family and friends comes in the form a newspaper report about the death of Sir John Lindsay, from 1788:

Public Advertiser. June 10, 1788
Public Advertiser. June 10, 1788

As a final point of interest, Queen Victoria’s goddaughter, Sarah Forbes Bonetta (1843-1880) was given her surname Bonetta by Captain James Forbes, who liberated her from slavery and who was the captain of HMS Bonetta.
Etienne has recently found out from Richard at the website More Than Nelson that there was sloop named Stormont, which Etienne believe would have been named after Viscount Stormont. The Stormont of 14 Guns commanded by Nicholas Charrington, was taken at the capture of St. Eustatius in February 1781. It was then captured by the French on 3 February 1782 at Demerara.

The second Stormont of 16 guns was previously the American privateer Scourge and which was taken on 14 February 1782 by the Protee 64, Captain Charles Buckner, in the Leeward Islands. It is feasible that Admiral Rodney had probably learned of the loss of the first Stormont by the time he appointed Cobb to command the captured Scourge on 13 March 1782, but Richard has said that he doesn’t know whether he would have renamed the Scourge ‘Stormont’ or whether instructions were issued from the Admiralty to do so some months later.

It is Etienne’s opinion that Lord Sandwich would have authorised the naming of both sloops (14 and 16guns) HMS Stormont, and as Stormont related to Viscount Stormont, Lord Mansfield’s nephew, it would have been named after him. Finally worth noting is the first captured sloop named HMS Stormont 14, was renamed Le Stormond by the French as mostly probably because Lord Stormont was ambassador to France from 1772 till 1778 when hostilities broke out between Great Britain and France. Lord Stormont up to this time was very close to the French Royal Family even attending the new king’s wedding to Marie Antoinette in May 1774—in fact his uncle Lord Mansfield joined him too on this special occasion.

Although there was never a ship named in honour of Sir John Lindsay, there were four ships with likely connections to the family – HMS Dido, as above; one owned by the East India Company – Earl of Mansfield, 1777, commanded by a Sir William Fraser, and according to Oxford Journal, 26 May 1781, there was also a brig named Lady Mansfield and now, a sloop, The Stormont.

Update by Etienne December 2022

From the books I have read on George III, he knew of all ships in the Royal Navy. That would then, also include HMS Dido, from order to commission in the Royal Navy. The king attended the same meeting as Sir John in September 1787 under the Whig, Rockingham government of which he became premier on 27 March 1782, the order for the frigate was given on 5 June instant, then that September the keel went down commencing the build, work progressed culminating in the launch on 27 Nov 1784 (note Sir John is back by the end of October instant) and works are fully completed on the frigate by 15 March the following year of 1785, meaning the ship was ready for future service.

But unlike the HMS  Victory which laid in slumber for 13 years before commissioning, HMS Dido is put into action on 24 Sept.1787 some 2 plus years after her launch and on the same day Sir John was promoted Rear Admiral Red, grace of the king who equally consented commissioning of said frigate.The king said he could cite the names ‘of all his ships’ active service so I know for sure he definitely knew of HMS Dido 28 from inception to conception.

Another update from Etienne Daly – April 2023

Captain Samuel Hough was Commodore/Superintendent of the Bombay Marines, for 18 years (1754-1772). He was succeeded by Commodore John Watson, who, upon the arrival of Sir John Lindsay in 1769, was subordinate to him for the next 2 plus years.

The Bombay Marines were a merchant force that supported the Royal Navy.

Captain Samuel Hough was in charge of an East Indiaman called SS Marquis of Rockingham back in 1769, so it seems that Lord Rockingham was fond of naming ships, especially one after himself.

This then comes as no surprise to me when he’s in power another ship is named linked to the family: HMS. Dido. Is this yet another coincidence? I think not, given the other ships named that are part of the family overall as per my post.

It has to be remembered that when Rockingham took power for the 2nd time he had close links to the Mansfield’s, Keppel, Sir John and The Portland’s.

Dido Elizabeth Belle

Where are Dido Elizabeth Belle’s sons buried?

Today, I have another guest post, by Etienne Daly about his research into the burial of Dido Elizabeth Belle‘s sons.

After establishing early on in my research that Dido Elizabeth Belle, Britain’s first mixed-race aristocrat was buried at St George’s Fields Burial Ground, I next focussed my attention to her two sons  –  Charles and William Thomas (whose twin John, died in infancy) and was probably also buried at St George’s Fields.

Dido Elizabeth Belle
Dido Elizabeth Belle. The portrait hangs at Scone Palace in Perthshire.

I started my search back in February 2016. Finding Charles, William Thomas was no easy feat as I thought it would be. Having contacted most of the cemeteries in Greater London, starting with the Brompton Cemetery, where Lavinia Amelia Daviniere, late Wohlgemuth, was buried, then nearby Margravine Cemetery and on to Paddington Cemetery, all bearing no fruit. It was the same story for Highgate and others. I eventually fell upon Kensal Green Cemetery in north London as a possible because both Charles and William Thomas lived nearby. Charles in Notting Hill and William Thomas in Paddington, with both staying within those areas for much of their lives, they married, had children, lived and died in those boroughs, but they did also travel.

My first call to the cemetery bore fruit as they were able to locate the grave of William Thomas on their register and gave me those details over the phone, whilst asking for any findings on his brother Charles or any other family members. ‘No, I’m sorry we can’t find anyone else listed here’,  I was told. Odd? Perplexed I thanked them for their help. I continued my search for Charles and his family. Looking everywhere I could think of, but no joy and getting a bit frustrated, when I came across by chance, on Billion Dollar Graves.com, an image of a grave with a marble cross above it and written below was Charles George Daviniere, buried at Kensal Green Cemetery. Died 16th January 1899. I knew then that this was Dido’s grandson from her twin son, Charles. Eureka, I cried as I always felt that if William Thomas was buried there, his older brother Charles would be too. So, quickly I grabbed the telephone to call the cemetery with this find.

Even with this call, they could not find a listing straight away, I even mentioned the site that I had found the details on. They suggested I leave it with them, and they would email me with any findings and references they could muster. I was hanging onto a thread of hope.

A front-facing sketch of Dido drawn for Etienne by Ian Sciacaluga
A front-facing sketch of Dido drawn for Etienne by Ian Sciacaluga

A day later I was emailed the information I wanted and again, I reached for the phone to call Kensal Green Cemetery, but this time I had a contact name who was dealing with my enquiry. I explained that I was puzzled that there was no sign of Charles, Dido’s son and could they please check again, and still even after that they could not confirm that Charles Daviniere (who died 24th January 1873) was actually at the cemetery. I even gave his title as Lieutenant Colonel –  still no joy.

At least I have 2 family members now, so the next thing was to visit I thought. Absolutely.  I had a contact at the friends of Kensal Green Cemetery who was able to pinpoint the exact area for me from his experience of the site as a whole.

There are thousands of graves that are intertwined just in the area I was going to visit let alone the cemetery as a whole without this knowledge the find would have been a lot longer, believe me. Needle in a haystack!

The first grave I found was in the sections 66 and 67 and was that of William Thomas, Dido’s last child, who I was able to establish then and there, was born on the 17th of December 1800.

Kensal Green Cemetery - Yale Center for British Art
Kensal Green Cemetery – Yale Center for British Art

I thought at the time ‘what a lovely Christmas present  Dido got that year and just a week before that big event, a baby’. The grave is a ledger, a flat stone that covers the burial site and this one is made of pink granite –  very expensive for the time. It was deeply engraved (a difficult job in those days), where all the family members were inscribed, William Thomas Daviniere – died 10th September 1867; wife, Fanny (Frances) – died 19th January 1869; Emily Helen (daughter) died 2nd March 1870. And finally, another relative William Charles Graham, nephew of Fanny. He lived with them and oddly he died on the same day and month as his uncle but being 10 September, three years later in 1870. So, within 3 years of William Thomas’s death, all the family were gone, all buried there.

A tree behind the ledger is tall and could have been planted there at the time of the final burial. Worth noting is the condition of the ledger today, given that it’s been in situ what will be 153 years this September, you would think it’s only been there 10 years maximum, it has weathered very well and has a sheen to it, remarkable really. And all the lettering is legible not eroded.

Having visited this grave I made my way to find that of Charles George Daviniere, bearing in mind it was a blowy, early March day in 2016, so not the best of days to linger around, quite cold too, with parts of the cemetery waterlogged.

I knew what to look for which was a marble cross albeit a bit grubby in appearance from the weather and placed on 3 tiers. I was told this grave wasn’t too far from that of William Thomas, in fact, it was only a stone’s throw away, literally so.  Upon finding it fairly quickly, thanks to my contact, I noticed the grave was in a bad state and not tended to for many years. I noticed some of the family names were there, but not all.  First, to be buried was Charles George who died on 16 January 1899, then was his son Percy Angus, he died 10 June 1904 in his 25th year and which was next followed by the wife of Charles George, Helen Marion Daviniere. She died on 23rd July 1932, a long life considering she was born in 1849/ Finally their youngest son Charles Crawford, who died on 28 Jul 1937, only into his 51st year, being born in 1886.

Reflecting again on the condition of that grave I turned to my left and noticed just beside Charles George’s monument, and I mean literally beside it, was a granite obelisk-shaped headstone which was in better condition, very grubby through many years of exposure to the weather. Encrusted with dirt, grime and birds mess. Upon closer inspection and to my complete surprise I saw first, inscribed the words: Lt. Col. Charles Daviniere of the MADRAS ARMY. Died 24 January 1873. In his 78th year.

Jumping for joy I read the other now grimy looking names on the obelisk: Lavinia Hannah Steele, died 20 February 1876, aged 38 years. To the side was a child’s burial, a son of Charles George – Herbert Lionel Daviniere, who died 20 November in 1878 only 17 months old –  that was sad.

Lastly, was Charles his wife Hannah who died on the 14th of November 1883, some 10 years plus after the death of her husband. All now found by me and by chance. I noticed Hannah had the longest life dying at 70 years that was a good life span for the Victorian era.

They were all ‘upper, middle class,’ worth noting that Charles, William Thomas, Fanny and Hannah (Nash) Daviniere were all born in the Georgian era, 1795, 1800, 1801 and 1813 respectively. Their offspring all born in the Victorian era. But not all of Charles George’s children were buried at Kensal Green Cemetery.

I quickly advised the staff at the burial office of my find, which they noted, and all sites are now included fully in the register so that other visitors should not have the difficulty I had, finding the graves. Having found the graves, I decided, that given their condition, if it were possible to have them renovated and cleaned up so they could look bit more respectable, so I contacted the nearby undertakers, E.M. Lander who like many funeral directors handle restorations, as monumental stone Masons. I explained the task at hand to him and they took over from there liaising with the cemetery directly and with clearance from them, started work in February 2017.

You’ll be able to see from the images how good a job they did of the three graves and I, in turn, attempt to visit these graves at least bi-monthly in order to keep him clean tidy and free from any fallen debris. Such a shame other graves unlocked looked after. I noticed on a recent visit that a nearby grave that had looked very weathered, had been cleaned up and the marble now looks bleach wide and surrounding area tidied up.

Anyone wishing to visit the Daviniere’s graves will be able to see from the map and the grids shown here, how to get there without needing a compass. You will also find the staff at the main office entrance on Harrow Road, most helpful.

Finally, some helpful tips  – good footwear, an umbrella, a good coat should you visit in the wintertime, tissues/wet wipes to clean your shoes and boots after leaving the cemetery.

Should you wish to know more of those buried at Kensal Green, such as Augustus Frederick, King George III’s son, contact Kensal Green Cemetery on 0208 9690152, Monday to Saturday 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Dido Elizabeth Belle

Dido Elizabeth Belle: Questions and Answers

Today I welcome back Etienne Daly, with whom I’ve been working for a while now, researching Dido Elizabeth Belle, her life and her family. Today, Etienne is going to provide a quick Q&A session about Dido Elizabeth Belle, to set the record straight about some of the misinformation that still circulates in the public domain. Also, if you want to read more about her, you might like to try using the search option on All Things Georgian which will take you to all the current articles about Dido. I’ll now hand over to Etienne:

Over the past few years, there’s has been growing interest in Dido who is often referred to as Great Britain’s first mixed-race aristocrat. This is partly true as her father, Sir John Lindsay K.B., was an aristocrat and she was raised from five years old in the ‘aristocratic’ environment of both Caenwood (Kenwood) House in Hampstead and Bloomsbury Square in London. Her great uncle and aunt were also part of the elite, with Lord Mansfield being the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.

Dido received a special upbringing with the Mansfields, that which no person of colour in Western Europe of the time had. Even the Chevalier de St. Georges had to go to school whereas tutors came to the Mansfields to educate their great-nieces. Both cousins were educated equally and amongst their subjects, they were taught French – something that was to aid Dido very well in the future when she met John Louis Daviniere in the early 1790s. He was a Gentleman’s Steward.

Dido became an heiress in Lord Mansfield’s will of 1782 and whilst born in the era of slavery was never born as a slave herself, even though her mother Maria was. Maria was later freed from slavery by Dido’s father, Sir John Lindsay. A lot more interest in Dido would follow but the media has given the impression that there is no more knowledge of her to be found. This is wrong!

Here are some of the answers to most common questions raised about Dido, although I am sure there’s plenty more.

1. Where is the real painting of Dido & Elizabeth?

The real painting of the cousins is at Scone Palace, Perth in Scotland

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.
Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.

2. How did Dido die and at what age?

Dido is said to have died of natural causes at the aged of 43, in Pimlico, London, but no records exist to confirm this. In the late 18th century tuberculosis was a prevalent disease above most, even gout which in turn killed many, but not as much as T.B. and pleurisy affecting the chest, caused mainly by air pollution, cold and damp.  We know from Gene Adams research into Kenwood House accounts that Dido was treated in 1791 with asses milk, which was expensive and according to Culpepper, this treatment was used for T.B. amongst other maladies like stomach disorders and the nervous system.  As one in four died of T.B. then there’s a possibility that Dido suffered from a lung condition throughout her life, although for most, if they contracted T.B died shortly after contracting it.  Although, by no means conclusive, it’s one possible cause of Dido’s death, but of course this remains speculation as there was no such thing as a death certificate. My research continues to try to find the actual cause of death.   

3. Was John Daviniere French or of French descent?

John Louis Daviniere was French, from Ducey in Normandy, France. He came to England in the mid-1780s.

4. What was John Daviniere’s occupation?

Daviniere’s was a Gentleman’s Steward, above head-butler, unlike his occupation in the film, Belle.

Lauren Julien-Box as 'Young Dido' and Matthew Goode as 'Captain Sir John Lindsay' in Amma Asante's BELLE
Lauren Julien-Box as ‘Young Dido’ and Matthew Goode as ‘Captain Sir John Lindsay’ in Amma Asante’s BELLE

5. Was the film ‘Belle’ based on historic accuracy?

The film was based upon the book by Dr Paula Byrne and was very helpful in getting Dido known, but of course, being a film there was some creative licence and more information has emerged over time about her real life

6. Dido bore twins in 1795, one of the twins, John died in infancy – where is he buried?

Although no burial has been found so far, he was most likely buried at St George’s Field

7. What was the exact year and month Dido was born?

Dido was born on 29th June 1761 and in London. Confirmation that she was born in England was provided by Thomas Hutchinson.

The diary and letters of His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson. P276
The diary and letters of His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson. P276

8. Thomas Hutchinson remarked Dido’s hair didn’t match the larger curls now in fashion, did she ever try to relax her?
Most probably, as Hutchinson noted back in 1779 it was lengthened more than short curls. She most probably used pomade by the 1780s onwards to relax her hair finer still.

9. Was Dido really part of the Mansfield family and not a slave?

Dido was very much part of the family, fully educated by them and never raised or treated as a slave. This becomes clear when you read this newspaper article written in 1788 on the death of her father, Sir John Lindsay. It makes it clear how well respected Dido was by both family and visitors to the house.

Derby Mercury - Thursday 12 June 1788
Derby Mercury – Thursday 12 June 1788

10. Did Dido have any siblings?

No, but she did have several half-siblings. Sir John had 4 other children, all by different mothers and all born in Jamaica, one of whom died in infancy. The two who are best known to history were John and Elizabeth.

11. Where was Dido married and in what year?

Dido was married at St. George’s Church, Hanover Square – 5th December 1793, on the same day and at the same church as the 1st Duke of Sussex

The marriage Dido Elizabeth Belle to John Daviniere
The marriage Dido Elizabeth Belle to John Daviniere

12. As she was married by licence who paid for it?

As part of her inheritance, she had her licence paid for by her uncle, 2nd Earl Mansfield. The cost was £200.00. The cost of the licence would have bought you a 3-bedroom property with garden outside the city of London at that time. 

13. It is said her grave was moved along with others to make way for a housing development, is this correct?

The main site was developed, but part of the 1st class plot was not excavated. There’s a blog showing my calculations

14. She is often referred to as black and sometimes mixed race, which one is she?

Dido was mixed race and not black. She had a white father, Sir John Lindsay and a black mother, Maria Bell

A View of Kenwood, the Seat of the Earl of Mansfield, in the county of Middlesex
A View of Kenwood, the Seat of the Earl of Mansfield, in the county of Middlesex. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

15. Was Dido financially secure after she left Caenwood House?

Dido was very secure financially when she left Caenwood House in early April 1793. In fact, she had her own bank account with one of London’s oldest and respected private banks

16. Where did she live after she got married? and for how long?

Dido went to live in Pimlico in a ‘new build’ Georgian house which would of have at least 3 bedrooms, a cook and housemaid. She lived there from 1794 until her death in 1804 

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.
Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778.

17. Was Dido well educated like her cousin Elizabeth?

Yes. She was educated in all ladylike pursuits of the era including horse riding and had the same education as her cousin, Elizabeth

18. If Dido was found at St. George’s Fields Burial Ground how could you identify her for sure?

As per question 11, if found she could be identified firstly by DNA, and secondly, in 1791 there remains proof of her having dental work, she had two teeth removed from her lower jaw by a visiting dentist. She could also have been wearing a dress – more of which another time.

19. Was Dido’s father, Sir Lindsay, wealthy?

Yes, definitely. Apart from a naval salary, Sir John made good prize money with his captures in the Caribbean. Also, for example, we know from a newspaper of 1772 that when he returned from India he came back significantly more wealthy than when he left to the tune of around £100,000 (which in today’s money is in the region of 9 million pounds), of course, this may well be a slight exaggeration on the part of the media, but either way it was a significant sum. 

20. What happened to Dido’s mother?

Maria Bell(e) remained in England until around 1774, Sir John purchased land for her in Pensacola where a house was built, No 6 Western Bayfront.

Capture of Minerve off Toulon (wiki)
Capture of Minerve off Toulon (wiki)

21. There was a ship launched in 1784, named HMS Dido, did it have any connection to Dido Elizabeth Belle?

Watch this space as more research into the possibility that it was named after her is in progress, especially as it tied in nicely with it being commissioned  in 1782, around her 21st birthday and her father’s place in high society and his royal connections. 
For much more information about Dido Elizabeth Belle and her family click on this link 

‘Britain’s Black Past’ by Professor Gretchen Gerzina

Today, I am delighted to welcome to All Things Georgian, Professor Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina whose new book, ‘Britain’s Black Past‘ (*see end) has just been published by Liverpool University Press and is also available from Amazon. Our paths crossed as a result of our shared interest in the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, who features in the book.

Gretchen has been an Honorary Fellow at Exeter University, Eastman Professor at Oxford University, and professor of English at Brunel University. She is Paul Murray Kendall Professor of Biography and Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and amongst her numerous books, she has written ‘Black England: Life Before Emancipation’. With that introduction, I’ll now hand over to Gretchen to tell you more about how her latest book came to be written.

Click image to enlarge
Click image to enlarge

In 2015, I was contacted by a radio producer, Elizabeth Burke, proposing a ten-part series on early black Britain for the BBC. She had read my book Black England: Life Before Emancipation and thought that would like to put together a number of programmes we called “Britain’s Black Past,” exploring what to most Britons was the unfamiliar history. (You can also listen to the broadcast on BBC Radio 4 by clicking on this link).

My job, as an author with an extensive history of radio presenting, was to go with her to locations all over Britain to interview those who were making discoveries and bring their work to life in the studio. Together we climbed a hill in Wales, visited an enslaved boy’s grave in Morecombe Bay at low tide with Alan Rice, learned from academics led by Simon Newman in Glasgow who had put together a database of runaway enslaved people in Scotland.

In the studio, Elizabeth and I, with her colleagues, put it all together with further interviews, period music composed by the eighteenth-century shopkeeper and letter-writer Ignatius Sancho, whose letters were read aloud by the actor, Paterson Joseph.

Paterson Joseph as Ignatius Sancho in his play Sancho: An Act of Remembrance.
Paterson Joseph as Ignatius Sancho in his play Sancho: An Act of Remembrance.

The programmes were such a success when it aired in 2016, that it occurred to me that the finds of those who appeared on-air, and of those we were unable to include at the time, would make a terrific book.

Thomas Gainsborough Ignatius Sancho, 1768 Oil on canvas, 73.7 x 62.2 cm © National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. / Thomas Gainsborough Ignatius Sancho, 1768 Huile sur toile, 73.7 x 62.2 cm © Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa
Thomas Gainsborough Ignatius Sancho, 1768 Oil on canvas, 73.7 x 62.2 cm © National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. / Thomas Gainsborough Ignatius Sancho, 1768 Huile sur toile, 73.7 x 62.2 cm © Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa

Some of its contributors are academics, but others include independent researchers, a museum curator, an actor, a media specialist, and a lawyer turned biographer. In this book, you will meet an early black trumpeter who is the subject of blogs by Michael Ohajuru, and visit a Georgian house in Bristol where two very different enslaved people lived, explored in chapters by Madge Dresser and Christine Eickelmann.

“Piercefield, Seat of Nathaniel Wells Esq.” Aquatint after a drawing by FWL Stockdale published in No 30 of R. Ackermann's Repository of Arts etc., June 1, 1825, from the collections of Chepstow Museum, Monmouthshire Museums
“Piercefield, Seat of Nathaniel Wells Esq.” Aquatint after a drawing by FWL Stockdale published in No 30 of R. Ackermann’s Repository of Arts etc., June 1, 1825, from the collections of Chepstow Museum, Monmouthshire Museums

Readers—even those familiar with some of the figures and history it explores—will find much to surprise them. Nathaniel Wells, the mixed-race son of a plantation owner and an enslaved woman on St Kitts, became his father’s heir. He was sent to England for education, and when he came into his contested inheritance built a grand house on his estate and pleasure gardens in Wales. He married twice to white Englishwomen, had numerous children, and became a magistrate and sheriff. His story is complicated by the fact that his money came from a slave plantation, and the only enslaved people he freed were related to him. His story results from the tireless research of Anne Rainsbury, Curator of the Chepstow Museum.

Francis Barber by Henry Edridge. V&A
Francis Barber by Henry Edridge. V&A

Francis Barber (the servant of Samuel Johnson), black sailors, and Soubise (the ne’er-do-well protégé of Ignatius Sancho) appear in chapters by Michael Bundock, Charles Foy, and Ashley Cohen. Sue Thomas gives a far more extensive context to the narrative of Mary Prince, whose narrative hugely influenced the British abolitionist movement.

Ira Aldridge by James Northcote. Manchester Art Gallery
Ira Aldridge by James Northcote. Manchester Art Gallery

Theresa Saxon follows the actor Ira Aldridge through his lesser-known performances in provincial theatres as well as in London, and the ways they were reported in the press.

Rafael Hoermann analyses the political speeches of the firebrand reformer Robert Wedderburn. Caroline Bressey moves forward into the Victorian period to examine how race made its way into literature and public discourse. And Kathleen Chater, whose important database of black people from Britain’s past has become a valuable resource for researchers, discusses the different ways that academics and genealogists contribute to our knowledge of the black past.

These stories may have taken place in the past, but they also live on in the present. Paterson Joseph was so taken by Sancho’s story of becoming independent and later being the first black man in England to cast a vote, that he wrote and performs in a one-man play that travelled from Britain to America.

My chapter reconsiders an ‘All Things Georgian’ favourite, Dido Elizabeth Belle, filling out more of her story but also looking at the ways it has been retold in television and film.

Dido Elizabeth Belle

Ray Costello gives a longer history of race in Liverpool extending to the present day. And Vincent Carretta talks about the sometimes unpleasant aftermath to his discoveries about Olaudah Equiano.

Olaudah Equiano
Olaudah Equiano

It was a huge learning experience for me, but also tremendously rewarding to discover that all of these people, many of them unknown to each other, and others who knew of the others’ work but had never met them, are continuing to bring to light a past that is not past at all.

* Please be aware that right now Amazon appears to have sold out of copies and are not re-stocking at present due to the current COVID19 situation. However, copies of Gretchen’s book are available directly from her publisher Liverpool University Press. They are currently offering a 50% discount on all of of their ebooks as everything is becoming a little more digital at the moment. The discount code is EBOOKLUP

Who lived in these houses on Hertford Street, Mayfair?

If, like me, you wonder who lived in some of London’s Georgian houses, then today’s post takes a look at one specific London street in the affluent area of Mayfair, or to be more specific, Hertford Street.

Horwood Map of London Hertford Street 1792
Horwood’s Map of London Hertford Street 1792

John Roque's 1746 Map shows the area before Hertford Street was built (between Brick Street and Curzon Street)
John Roque’s 1746 Map shows the area before Hertford Street was built (between Brick Street and Curzon Street)

This is a street which Etienne Daly told me about in connection with Sir John Lindsay, the father of Dido Elizabeth Belle as he felt sure Sir John must have lived there at some time.

When Sir John wrote his will in 1783 (with codicils added later), he made specific reference to his house on this street and being ever curious, I wanted to know exactly where he lived, when he lived there and who else of interest may have also lived in this street.

Very difficult to read, but if you look closely you should be able to make out 'House in Hertford Street'
Very difficult to read, but if you look closely you should be able to make out ‘my house in Hertford Street’

Needless to say, the rates returns came to the rescue, if producing slightly confusing information in parts.

In some exhibition material of 2007, produced by Cathy Power, of  English Heritage, she noted a payment made by Kenwood House to Sir John, for some £3,000 which Cathy felt was, in all likelihood for the purchase of a marital home especially as he had just married Mary Milner in 1768.

Sir John's marriage to Mary Milner in 1768
Sir John’s marriage to Mary Milner 17 September 1768, St George’s Hanover Square

Judging by the rates returns for Hertford Street, this would definitely tie in with that assumption. The properties along this stretch of the road were designed and built in 1768-69  by Henry Holland (1746-1806), the son of a builder, and therefore Sir John would have bought the property from new.

Rates Return 1769 for Hertford Street
Rates Return 1769 for Hertford Street

We now, of course, know that Sir John was posted overseas around that time, so what a lovely new London residence for his bride to live in whilst her husband was away. As to whether Dido Elizabeth Belle ever visited Sir John and Lady Mary during their time there, we will probably never know, but it’s lovely to think that perhaps she did.

Sir John and Lady Mary remained there until around 1782, after which time it was occupied by the 4th Earl of Sandwich, but it was still owned by Sir John as indicated by his will. Sir John and Lady Mary moved elsewhere according to the land tax from 1783 which showed their new residence.

It is well known that the Earl of Sandwich had a long-term relationship with the singer, Martha Ray and that he established a home for her in Westminster. However, it’s unlikely to have been this one as Martha was murdered in 1779, so, prior to the Earl of Sandwich taking over occupancy.

Residents of Hertford Street in 1782. Sir John Lindsay still owned the property, but the 4th Earl of Sandwich was living there.
Residents of Hertford Street in 1782. Sir John Lindsay still owned the property, but the 4th Earl of Sandwich was living there at the time of the rates return.

Zoffany, Johann; John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich; National Portrait Gallery, London.
Zoffany, Johann; John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich; National Portrait Gallery, London.

Many of the houses on this street were designed by the architect Henry Holland, who, according to the 1769 return, still owned both properties, whether he was living in either of them remains unclear though. It was in 1773, once again at St George’s, Hanover Square that Henry Holland junior married Bridget Brown, the daughter of Capability Brown, the landscape architect.

Henry Holland. NPG
Henry Holland. NPG

Number 9 didn’t appear to have an occupant until 1780 when it was eventually purchased by Nathaniel Bayly, a plantation owner and M.P.

We know that number 10 was owned by General Burgoyne and now has a Blue Plaque outside it. Burgoyne commissioned his friend Robert Adam to design the interior.

No. 10 Hertford Street.
No. 10 Hertford Street.

General John Burgoyne. Frick Museum
General John Burgoyne. Frick Museum

General Burgoyne’s next-door neighbour at number 11, was Sir John Lindsay. It is well documented that Robert Adam also worked on Kenwood House, so it would seem quite  feasible that Adam had some involvement in the interior design of Sir John’s home too.

Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay)
Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay); Glasgow Museums

Properties number 12 was occupied by Lady Harriett Conyers

Number 13, simply says it was occupied by a Mrs Grey. However, with a little research it would appears to have been the home of Charles, 1st Earl Grey and his wife Elizabeth. Their son being Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, Prime Minister, famed for his scandalous relationship with Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, their relationship resulting in their illegitimate daughter, Eliza Courtney(1792-1859). Although raised in Northumberland, it would be interesting to know whether Eliza ever visited her grandparents at their town house on Hertford Street. It is known that Georgiana met her daughter in secret in London, could these secret meetings have taken place here?

Number 14, was owned by George Pitt, Lord Rivers, a diplomat and politician, along with his wife, Lady Penelope where he remained for a good number of years after the couple separated in 1771, with Lady Penelope living mostly in France and Italy until her death on 1 January 1795 in Milan.

Thomas Gainsborough - Portrait of George Pitt, First Lord Rivers - 1971 - Cleveland Museum of Art
Thomas Gainsborough – Portrait of George Pitt, First Lord Rivers – Cleveland Museum of Art

At number 15, was the fabulously named, Sir Gregory Page-Turner, MP for Thirsk, who was unmarried whilst living there (he married in 1785). As well as inheriting substantial properties from his uncle, he had this townhouse, which he retained until March 1780, when it was sold by Messrs Christie and Ansell. The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser carried the following description of the property:

An Elegant Leasehold house with suitable offices etc, desirably situated on the south side of Hertford Street, Mayfair, late in the possession of Sir Gregory Page-Turner, Bart.

The premises contain two good rooms on each floor, a spacious hall and stone staircase, detached kitchen etc. are held on lease for upwards of eighty years unexpired.

Pompeo Batoni - Sir Gregory Page-Turner
Pompeo Batoni – Sir Gregory Page-Turner

At number 16 was John Hume, the relatively newly appointed Bishop of Salisbury

At number 17 we have Thomas Dundas Esq, Scottish-British politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1763 to 1794, after which he was raised to the peerage as Baron Dundas.

Dundas being another long-standing resident. His wife, who he married, again at St George, Hanover Square in 1764, being Charlotte Fitzwilliam. Given that the couple had some fourteen children it seems far more likely that this was their town house and that the children lived at the ancestral home, Aske Hall, North Yorkshire – it would have been an extremely cosy fit to have them all living in the Hertford Street house.

Thomas Dundas, 1st Baron Dundas. NPG
Thomas Dundas, 1st Baron Dundas. NPG

Number 18 was owned by the Honourable Topham Beauclerk, who was a close friend of Dr Johnson and the well-known man of letters, aka gossip, Horace Walpole.

His wife being Diana, née Spencer, often referred to as ‘Lady Di’, former Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte. The couple were married in March 1768, at St George’s, Hanover Square, just a few months before Sir John and Lady Mary. Like Sir John and Lady Mary, could this have also been their townhouse when they first married? The couple married just two days after Diana was divorced. Whilst Topham retained the house, the couple did not appear to have lived there for long. Unlike Sir John’s marriage, theirs was not to be a happy one and according to the artist Joseph Farrington:

They slept in separate beds. Beauclerc was remarkably filthy in his person which generated vermin. He took laudanum regularly in vast quantities. He seldom rose before one or two o’clock.

XZL151113 Topham Beauclerk (1739-80) (pastel on paper) by Cotes, Francis (1726-70)<br /> pastel on paper<br /> Private Collection<br /> English, out of copyright
XZL151113 Topham Beauclerk (1739-80) (pastel on paper) by Cotes, Francis (1726-70), pastel on paper. Private Collection. English

At Number 19 Sir Francis Molineux,  who was appointed Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod in 1765 a post he held until his death in 1812.

Sir Francis Molineux. NPG
Sir Francis Molineux. NPG

And finally at Number 20  – The Earl of Morton. It remains unclear as to whether this was James Douglas, 14th Earl of Morton who died 1768, or his son who occupied this property. However, from the following year, the occupants were Robert Darcy, 4th Earl of Holderness and his wife Mary, who features in our latest book for her misdemeanours, as she became known as ‘The Queen of Smugglers’.

Needless to say, occupancy was not static, but this post hopefully gives you a snapshot of some of the people living there from 1768. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have some more ‘Blue plaques’ added to the street for some of these people?

Sir John Lindsay. Copyright Etienne Daly
Sir John Lindsay. Copyright Etienne Daly

Sources used:

Westminster Rate Books 1634-1900 Folio 28 (1769)

English Heritage 

The Architecture of Robert and James Adam

History, Directory & Gazeteer, of the County of York: With Select …, Volume 2

The Royal Kalendar, Or, Complete and Correct Annual Register for England  1780

Nelson, Paul David. Sir Charles Grey, First Earl Grey: Royal Soldier, Family Patriarch

Aske Hall, North Yorkshire


Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.

Is Dido Elizabeth Belle still buried at St George’s burial ground in Bayswater Road?

I am delighted to welcome an authority on the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, Etienne Daly, whose name you have probably seen in previous articles about Dido. As part of his research into her life he has been taking a closer look at her death, more specifically where she was buried and with that I’ll hand you over to Etienne to tell you more.

Dido Elizabeth Belle
Dido Elizabeth Belle. The portrait hangs at Scone Palace in Perthshire.

On a dull, grey, bitterly cold, 6 January 1969, just after 8.00am rolled off the trucks in Albion Street, bulldozers and diggers. The residents nearby were made fully aware that big changes were coming through a plot of land formerly known as St George’s Fields Burial Ground, the noise of the machinery being offloaded would have awoken even the deepest of sleepers, but the residents had been expecting this.

Over the previous 6 months as notice of development into a housing association was made known to them all, that is not the case of course for the incumbents buried there, some for over 200 years!

Now things were going to change on the five acre site. Following the machinery would be wooden boxes to pile all the bones, skulls and skeletons intact,  with lime powder to be scattered on them ready to be taken to the crematorium in South London for incineration and final disposal.

Local residents expected an efficient job to be done with respect and sensitivity for the dead, but it didn’t work that way according to the local paper of the time, The Paddington Mercury which ran the story on Friday 24 January 1969, saying that digging and drilling went on till 8.00pm, even on Sundays and vibrations were felt in certain properties causing consternation.

But bones were also found in the street which had to be picked up and boxed by the many labourers given the task of clearing the site. The weather being atrocious from January to the end of March meant the workers would have  been as speedy as possible, allowing corners to be cut to get the task done. In fact it was took the best part of 1969 before most of the site was cleared and with it went the history of Saint George’s Fields.

So from the time the land was sold off and boarded up just the previous month, December 1968 until a year later trucks were coming and going, loading up the bones of the deceased and off to one of these crematoriums: the Lambeth crematorium, Streatham or West Norwood Crematoriums.

All history of this site was to go with it, a site which had opened in 1765 as an over-spill burial ground for the parish of St George’s Hanover square – the very church in which Dido  married in December 1793.

And of some important people worth noting like Laurence Sterne (1713-1768), Paul Sandby (1721-1809), Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) and General Thomas Picton, of Waterloo fame, who were buried in the vault at the graveyard and many others.

But there were also body snatchers around which is why the boundary had two walls built and vaults were made underground for the wealthier, these faced the then Uxbridge Rd (now Bayswater Road) in the first class plot.

The others were middle class plots and paupers plots and were located to the rear of the site which often became waterlogged.

British Museum
British Museum

This, however, did not deter the body snatchers who had some success in removing corpses to sell on to the medical profession for dissection!

The ground was eventually closed in 1858, but unofficial burials took place up until the mid-1860s. By 1885 the ground was mainly cleared, leaving headstones lined up on the perimeter wall with the area becoming a park for people to walk through, that is till after the Second World War during which the Chapel of Ascension was hit by a doodlebug in 1944 putting an end to that.

With land prices raised since the 1950s it had by the end of the 1960s become a prime target for building speculators.

Full circle on after three years of development, the housing association consisting of 300 flats was accommodated by June 1973.  It became a private block when the residents bought the freehold in the early 1980s. However, since that time bones have been recovered at certain parts of the development when new works have taken place such as light laying cables etc.

I discovered that the vaults haven’t been fully examined because of access ability i.e.  power cables  are nearby.

My research took me to Saint George’s Fields as I knew that Dido was buried there late July 1804 and took an interest in layout and plans of that side both historic and pre/post development. I made grids of the site based on the first second and third class plots, and the first phase of development as the foundations went in. Without boring you with all the calculations, suffice it to say that an area of the site looked as if it was not developed and based upon all findings matched up, so with this plan I made of the area I approached an expert of the site and development who was able to say that area was not touched, in fact it was outside of the buildings footprint. But area I discovered was in the first class plot (best ground) facing the now, Bayswater Road.

Once armed with this knowledge I did further work and discovered in fact two probable burial plots where Dido may have been buried. Two you think? Well, you have to know that burial sites were also a business, and the best plots made the most money, so after many years graves were moved as spaces filled up. This, my experts agreed on as being common practice in the 18th and 19th century.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The image of the site is from a photo taken around 1949 which shows the two marked areas in pink, the top one was the original burial plot and the other is further back, but both were ‘path side’ in the first class plot.

Now, I know Dido was not placed in the vaults and was buried above ground in the first class plot, and there’s a chance that the plot was brick lined for added preservation and would have been quite deep around 12 feet to 14 feet deep in order to deter grave robbers, it was also a favoured method of the upper classes.

I noted that Dido’s death was number 56 of 73 deaths that month of July for the parish of Saint George’s and a high rate of child mortality that month as many months in the 18th and 19th century.

There’s also a possibility that Dido’s twin son  John, who was born in May 1795 with the other twin Charles, who died in infancy was buried there around 1796-8. There’s no exact record of when John died or was buried, but most likely it was at the burial ground and Saint George’s.  Only a deep scan of the designated areas would prove conclusive and if we could find they are buried together and I would very much welcome such a scan to prove or disprove my theory, as I think is seems highly likely that Dido, is still be buried there, only time will tell.

It is also feasible that when Dido died, the family used the undertakers, or upholders as they were then known, France and Beckwith, who were responsible for organising all royal burials including those of King George III, King George IV, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg and more. William France trained as an upholsterer initially and undertook work at Kenwood House, where he supplied table legs, frames and mouldings which were described as being ‘Gilded with Burnish’d Gold in the most perfect manner’.

Thanks must also go to Colin Fenn, who assisted Etienne with research into the burial ground. As well as researching Saint George’s Field he is also a trustee of the Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery, where Dido’s two sons are buried. Colin’s website can be found by clicking this link 

Featured Image

Dido Elizabeth Belle. The portrait hangs at Scone Palace in Perthshire.

The East India Company

We have no idea quite why, but we seem to have been drawn to the East India Company (EIC) or The Honourable East India Company as it was also known, in so much of our research.

Whilst researching Grace Dalrymple Elliott and her family we discovered that her cousin John Mordaunt, the illegitimate sons born to Grace’s aunt Robinaiana Brown when she was the mistress of Charles Mordaunt, 4th Earl of Peterborough went out to India to make his fortune, as was popular for well to do young men of the time.

John Mordaunt (Jack to his friends) became a favourite at the court of the Asaf-ud-Daula, Nawab of Oudh in Lucknow, where the two men shared a love for the sport of cock-fighting, a brutal and barbaric activity. John had several gamecocks imported from England for this purpose.


Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match shows a scene from the Nawab’s court with the two men engaged in this activity. Painted by Johan Zoffany c.1784-86 during his time in India, it was commissioned by Warren Hastings shortly before he resigned as the Governor-General of India. Hastings is not present in the picture, but he was in attendance at John Mordaunt’s cockfight on the 5th April 1784, on which this painting is probably based.  Jack Mordaunt was an easy-going and charming fellow, quite the male counterpart to his cousin Grace. He was in charge of the Nawab’s bodyguards and at the head of all the amusements of the court.

Now, somewhat surprisingly for us, two of Grace’s female cousins also travelled out to India for what appears to have been a ‘husband hunting trip’ – cousins Janet (known as Jessy) and Susannah Brown.

It was a tried and tested method of securing a wealthy spouse. Eligible young girls were encouraged to travel to India by the directors of the EIC who were aghast at their men taking local girls as their wives and adopting Indian custom and practices, in effect ‘going native’ even though the practice did ensure a certain level of influence for the British officials with the rulers of the territories.

If enough British girls could be sent out there, then it was hoped that the company men would settle with them instead. The two Brown sisters had enough male relatives already in India to look after them, and they could expect their Mordaunt and Dalrymple cousins to introduce them to their fellow officers and to the best society that India had to offer.

They lived in Calcutta with Colonel John Mordaunt at his house on the esplanade in the Chowringhee area, formerly a tiger-infested jungle but, since the construction of Fort William thirty years earlier, abounding with magnificent houses built by the British residents. Their scheme worked.

In May 1788 in the church at Fort William, Calcutta, Janet Lawrence Brown married John Kinloch. The marriage, however, was, as was often the case, short-lived. John Kinloch was in bad health and, hoping that a change of air would cure him, he journeyed to Serampore on the banks of the Hoogli River, unfortunately, this trip did not prevent his death which occurred less than four months after his marriage.

Six months later, at the same church in which her now widowed sister had married, on 3 March 1789 Susannah Robiniana Brown married Major Samuel Farmer, an officer in the Bengal army. Samuel Farmer was considered one of the three best officers in the company’s service and he moved in the same social circles as her cousins Colonel John and Captain Henry Mordaunt.

All was not lost for Jessy though, as there were plenty of well-to-do men in India. She remained a widow for over four years before accepting the proposal of John Bebb Esquire, a wealthy EIC director. Their marriage settlement was drawn up on 12 January 1793 and John Bebb promised to pay 100,000 Indian rupees or £10,000 sterling into a trust to be administered by several trustees including the Honourable Charles Stuart of Calcutta, a Member of the Supreme Council of the EIC on their Bengal establishment, and Janet’s brother-in-law Samuel Farmer. This trust would be for his wife’s benefit in the event of her becoming a widow.

Ultimately the couple returned to England where, anticipating his permanent return home, John Bebb had purchased the picturesque estate of Donnington Grove in Berkshire in 1795, the former home of the Brummell family and where the infamous Beau Brummell grew up.

The Regency Dandy, Beau Brummell
Beau Brummell

Once again, whilst researching our Georgian Heroine we found ourselves delving back into EIC on discovering the love our heroine, Charlotte’s life, none other than Sir David Ochterlony (1758-1825), who held the then powerful post of British Resident to the Mughal court at Delhi.

Major-General Sir David Ochterlony (1758-1825), Soldier by Arthur William Devis; National Galleries of Scotland.
Major-General Sir David Ochterlony (1758-1825), Soldier by Arthur William Devis; National Galleries of Scotland.

Charlotte met him whilst they were both teenagers, but rather than staying in England to marry her, he sailed for India, leaving a desolate Charlotte, whose life was to take a very different path, but despite this she never forgot the first love of her life and wrote to him in 1821, recounting part of her life story, probably wishing her life had turned out differently. Ochterlony, by this time had ‘gone native’ and had 13 concubines, who he paraded through the streets each evening on elephants – we do wonder whether Charlotte ever knew of this. He clearly never forgot the first love of his life and named one of his children, Charlotte – was this done deliberately? We would like to believe so.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

Whilst researching Dido Elizabeth Belle, who we have recently been writing about, yet again our research has led us to the EIC and her seemingly unknown uncle, brother to Sir John Lindsay, William Lindsay who, before he died leaving questionable provision for his native children.

Dido Elizabeth Belle
Dido Elizabeth Belle. The portrait hangs at Scone Palace in Perthshire.

Dido’s half brother also, John Lindsay also lived with a native woman, he, on the other hand provided extremely well for both mother and daughter when he died in 1821. Other relatives of Dido also found themselves in the EIC including her two sons, Charles and William Daviniere, Archibald Campbell, who was a company director at the end of the 1700’s.

If the East India Company and life in India during this period interests you then you can find a list of some of the others articles we’ve written which have mentions of it, below.

Art Detectives: The Mysterious Sir Thomas Mills and Lady Elizabeth

Revealing new information about the courtesan, Nelly O’Brien

The miser, his daughter and her lover: Elizabeth Cardinall, 1776-1803

Fanny Williams and the Amherst family of Kent

What happened to Parson John Ambrose and his family?

Henrietta and Caroline Ambrose

The family of Allan Ramsay, principal portrait painter to George III

Featured Image

‘Choultry’, or Travellers’ Rest House, Srirangam, Madras, Francis Swain Ward (c.1734–1805), British Library

146 Piccadilly – who lived in a house like this?

For all regular followers will no doubt be aware that as well as all of my other research, I have, in the background, been researching Dido Elizabeth Belle and her husband.

For those aware of Dido’s life you will know that she died in 1804 and was buried at St George’s Field (it appears likely, according to Etienne Daly that her remains may well still be there) leaving her husband John with two sons, William and Charles, to raise alone.

146 Piccadilly, Mayfair, Marylebone St Johns Wood And Mayfair, Greater London. English Heritage
146 Piccadilly, Mayfair, Marylebone St Johns Wood And Mayfair, Greater London. English Heritage

As I have said previously, I know that by 1811 John Davinière was working as a steward/valet to John (known as ‘fish’) Craufurd, MP, and had found a new love in his life, Jane Holland, with whom he had a further two children, Lavinia (1809-1881) and Edward Henri (1812-1867), who was later to be placed in an asylum when John and Jane returned to France.

It was in February 1811 that John applied for naturalisation, having lived in England for over 25 years, confirmed in a letter written by William Augustus Fawkener, close family friend to the Craufords, just prior to Fawkener’s death in August of that year.  Fawkener was brother to Harriet Bouverie, the London beauty, society hostess, ardent supporter of Charles James Fox and close friend to the Duchess of Devonshire.

London society at that time was so small that everyone who was anyone was closely linked, so John would have been well aware of them all, but would of course, have been expected to remain tight lipped about the things he heard.

146 Piccadilly, Mayfair, Marylebone St Johns Wood And Mayfair, Greater London. English Heritage
146 Piccadilly, Mayfair, Marylebone St Johns Wood And Mayfair, Greater London. English Heritage

In the late 1790s, John Crauford and Charles Cockerell purchased the properties of 146 and 147 Piccadilly respectively, quite prestigious places to live at the time and just a stone’s throw from the then newly opened John Hatchards bookshop at 187 Piccadilly, the oldest surviving bookshop in Britain and a mere five minute walk to the world famous Fortnum and Mason (181 Piccadilly), who were, by this time selling every food you could imagine – and many you couldn’t – such as a fruits from overseas including Jordan almonds, guava jelly, green Madeira citron and preserved West India ginger, perfect products for the well-to-do of London.

146 Piccadilly, Mayfair, Marylebone St Johns Wood And Mayfair, Greater London. English Heritage
146 Piccadilly, Mayfair, Marylebone St Johns Wood And Mayfair, Greater London. English Heritage

On 25 August 1810, John Craufurd’s nephew, General James Catlin Craufurd, died in the Peninsular Wars.  James’ father had been Governor of Bermuda but had a serious gambling problem and it appears that little of his estate was left for James Catlin to inherit. So, when James died his wife, his will consisted of a mere two lines, confirming that should he die abroad his possessions should go to his wife, Ann Elizabeth Barnard (the sister of Sir Andrew Barnard), there was no mention as to what his possessions or estate consisted of, but it seems safe to assume that there wasn’t very much of it to give to her and with that Ann and her five children were taken in by James’ uncle. She did, however, at the instigation of the Duke of Wellington, receive a pension.

The property itself was quite substantial so could, house them all in relative comfort, along with all the other servants required including a servant, groom and footman. John was living at 9 Portman Place at this time, only about a mile away.

The neighbouring properties belonging to Sir Charles Cockerell, Sir Nathaniel Holland, Lady Smith Burgess, Sir Drummond Smith, Earl of Dysart and of course, Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington at Apsley House which Robert Adam built in 1771 and he purchased in 1807.

Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), 1st Duke of Wellington by Thomas Lawrence
Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), 1st Duke of Wellington by Thomas Lawrence; English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House

After the death of John Craufurd, his will confirmed that he had made financial provision for Ann Elizabeth and the children, all of whom he thought highly of,  upwards of ten thousand pounds, plus all the household goods and that shortly after his death she and her brood moved out and took a property close by on Stratton Street, she also pleaded poverty saying she had so little to bequeath to her children, in her will of 1823, a mere nine thousand pounds (if you can call half a million pounds in today’s money poverty!).

I still have no clues as to who Davinière worked for after this, as yet, but John Crauford left him fifty pounds annuity, plus one hundred pounds and all of his wardrobe to help him on his way and had supported John’s son, Charles’ application to join the East India Company.

It is known that Davinière and Jane remained in England until at least 1819 when they eventually married, they then reappeared back in his native town of Ducey, France, where he was to ultimately die. You can find out more about their life here.


Burnham, Robert & McGuigan Ron.  Wellington’s Brigade Commanders: Peninsula and Waterloo

Westminster Rates books 1634-1900

Featured Image

Piccadilly from Hyde Park corner turnpike from Ackermann’s Repository 1810

Lady Elizabeth Mills by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Art Detectives: The Mysterious Sir Thomas Mills and Lady Elizabeth

Sir Thomas Mills by Joshua Reynolds.
Sir Thomas Mills by Joshua Reynolds. McCord Museum

As you will probably be aware by now, we have been busy researching Dido Elizabeth Belle and as part of this, we have looked at those within the inner circle of her extended family. This has led us to look at Sir Thomas Mills, who was reputed to be the ‘nephew’ of Lord Mansfield. We have tried to find confirmation as to Mills actual connection to Lord Mansfield, but without any success so far. Some accounts record him as Lord Mansfield’s ‘nephew’, others as a ‘consanguineal relative’ and others that he was really Lord Mansfield’s ‘illegitimate son’. Neither appear to be true.

He seems to have appeared from nowhere and the only clue as to his identity is that he had a sister, Elizabeth, who died in Edinburgh according to the newspapers on May 9th 1775, however, there’s no obvious burial for her.

The Scots Magazine 01 May 1775
The Scots Magazine 01 May 1775

It appears that Mills was born in Scotland around 1736-1738 to a mother who never left her native country.  To date, we’re unable to place Lord Mansfield in Scotland, but who knows, maybe he nipped back across the border for a brief liaison and Mills was the result, but it does seem highly unlikely.

Whatever the relationship, Lord Mansfield was extremely fond of him. He regularly dined at Caenwood House. Sylvester Douglas (Lord Glenbervie), a prominent lawyer and diplomat wrote of Mills, that he was illiterate but frank, friendly and dashing and had served with ‘distinguished bravery’. Mills was given the post of Governor of Quebec after his military service, it appears that Lord Mansfield had a hand in arranging this position.

It is rare for us to take such an immediate dislike to someone we write about, but this character is one with very few redeeming qualities. He was a spendthrift and it appears a liar too; spent money like water, getting himself and his family into debt. Everything we’ve read about him seems to be negative, so it seems strange that Lord Mansfield had such a soft spot for him, unless there’s something we’re missing!

Lady Elizabeth Mills by Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Lady Elizabeth Mills by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Courtesy of Philip Mould Ltd

We then came across this beautiful miniature by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which is of a Lady Elizabeth Mills, née Moffatt, who was baptised 29th January 1756 at St Mary Woolnoth, London, the daughter of Andrew and Katherine (née Creighton) Moffatt. Her father, Andrew was a merchant and both he and his brothers were heavily involved with the East India Company.

Andrew Moffatt by Lemuel Francis Abbott Courtesy of Nick Cox at Period Portraits
Andrew Moffatt by Lemuel Francis Abbott Courtesy of Nick Cox at Period Portraits

The family lived at Cranbrook House in the extremely affluent area of Ilford, Essex, opposite Valentines and next to Highlands, an area where all the well-to-do families who were connected with the East India Company lived.

Valentine's, the seat of Charles Raymond Esq
Courtesy of Valentine Mansion.com

In November 1774, Elizabeth married Sir Thomas Mills, when she was just 18, a marriage which would prove to be an interesting one.

Caledonian Mercury 12 November 1774
Caledonian Mercury 12 November 1774

A marriage settlement was made by Elizabeth’s father of some £10,000 (just under one million today) but despite this large sum of money, Mills continued to spend more than he earned and even had to be bailed out by his father-in-law on more than one occasion, to the extent that Andrew Moffatt made provision in his will of 1780, for his siblings, daughters and grandchildren, but specifically mentioned that his son-in-law was indebted to him to the tune of £5,000, a debt which he wanted to be reimbursed to the estate as soon as possible, he was clearly not impressed by his son-in-law! It was slightly strange, as he also left Sir Thomas £100. Which seems to make little sense in light of his debt. Andrew also left 20 guineas to his good friend Lord Mansfield for him to buy a ring in memory of him and money for Elizabeth’s sole use, exclusive of her husband.

Despite our view of Sir Thomas, Elizabeth must have felt something for him, as the couple produced three children – Andrew Moffatt Mills born just over 9 months after they wed; Elizabeth Finch Mills (1776) and finally Catherine Crichton Mills (1779).

According to the Oxford Journal of July 1772

When Sir Thomas was returning home in a chair, he was surrounded by four street robbers in Windmill Street, Haymarket, who stopped the chair, and one of them presented a pistol and demanded his money. Sir Thomas told them that he would not be robbed and endeavoured to seize the pistol, at this point one of the assailants fired, he missed Sir Thomas who burst open the chair door and attacked the robbers who then fled. There were no watchmen nearby and the chairmen didn’t even try to assist to apprehend the robbers.

Was this a ‘set-up’? It seems highly likely, in our opinion.

Sir Thomas Mills died 23 February 1793 and left no will and it appears with no money either to leave, but despite what the newspapers said, he was not named as a beneficiary of Lord Mansfield’s will, who died 20th March 1793.

Kentish Gazette 22 March 1793
Kentish Gazette 22 March 1793

His wife Elizabeth died in June 1816.

History tells us that the Moffatt family were plantation and slave owners in Jamaica, as the family went on to make claims in 1832 for monies owed for freed slaves.


Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens

Legacies of British Slave Ownerships

The Diary and Letters of His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson

The Westminster Magazine, Or, The Pantheon of Taste, Volume 8

Essex Parish Registers 1537-1997, Familysearch

An Eighteenth Century game of ‘Degrees of Separation’

In this post, I thought we would play a quick game of ‘six degrees of separation’. For anyone who is unaware of the concept, you will no doubt be familiar with the phrase ‘it’s a small world’ and it so it is. It’s been quite surprising that throughout my research, I’ve noticed just how relatively small London was in the 18th century. Everyone who was anyone knew each other and this has become especially obvious whilst exploring the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle.

So, in today’s game I show the close connection between Prince George (later George IV) and Dido Elizabeth Belle. On the face of it, they would appear to be poles apart, George, the then-future monarch and Dido the daughter of a ‘mulatto slave’. But the distance between them is only a few steps.

George IV when Prince of Wales by Richard Cosway, watercolour on ivory, circa 1780-1782
by Richard Cosway, watercolour on ivory, circa 1780-1782

We begin the game with Prinny, who, in the early 1780s had a relationship with the lovely courtesan, Grace Dalrymple Elliott, who gave birth to a daughter who, Grace claimed was his. Georgina was the only illegitimate child that Prinny made payments to, so perhaps that was his way of acknowledging that she was his.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough.
Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough.
The Frick, New York.

Now, Grace counted amongst her closest friends, Lady Seymour Worsley, for those who haven’t come across her before, she’s the one who found herself in court in February 1782, for criminal conversation, a euphemism for sex.

Amongst the men with whom Lady Worsley allegedly had an affair, was George, Viscount Deerhurst, later to become the 7th Earl of Coventry.  Deerhurst was a bit of a ‘player’ and had previously eloped to Gretna Green with Lady Catherine Henley.

George, 6th Earl of Coventry. National Trust.
George, 6th Earl of Coventry. National Trust.

His father the then, 6th Earl of Coventry, totally disapproved of his son’s behaviour and banished him from the family home, so George took himself off to stay on the Isle of Wight, at Appuldurcombe, the home of Sir Richard Worsley and his wife, Lady Seymour Worsley – big mistake! He apparently ended up having a relationship with Lady Worsley (he was one of many, she was rumoured to have had well in excess of 20 lovers), but it was her infidelity with George Maurice Bisset that was the final nail in her coffin and she found herself in court, but George, Viscount Deerhurst, also found his name on this list of people with whom she had allegedly had ‘criminal conversation’.

Lord Mansfield was the trial judge in the case of Crim. Con. and he was also the guardian of Dido Elizabeth Belle. The trial took place in February 1782, so no doubt Dido, aged 20, would have been fully aware of the case.

Dido Elizabeth Belle. Scone Palace.
Dido Elizabeth Belle. The portrait hangs at Scone Palace in Perthshire.

To add to the royal connection, Lord Mansfield, counted George III amongst his friends and a regular visitor to Caenwood (Kenwood) House, so it’s perfectly feasible that the royal family would have met or at least seen Dido.  So it really was a small world.

William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield by Jean Baptiste van Loo
William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield by Jean Baptiste van Loo. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Try this game for yourselves and if you can make connections like this from people in the 18th century I would love to hear from you as there must be plenty more out there.

The missing brother of Sir John Lindsay

When you begin to research a person’s life, especially one who has frequently been written about, you suddenly find that you’ve opened a real can of worms with more and more information toppling out every day. This has never more so than in the research into the life and extended family of Dido Elizabeth Belle with many new facts being found. The more time we’ve spent down this proverbial rabbit hole the more we have managed to piece together.

Dido Elizabeth Belle
Dido Elizabeth Belle. The portrait hangs at Scone Palace in Perthshire.

Her father, Sir John Lindsay is well-known to anyone who knows anything about Dido and if they didn’t know that Sir John had several illegitimate children, then they probably know about his high achieving naval career. Our interest in his career has merely been a sideline, we needed to know more about his career in order to validate elements of Dido’s life.

We know that Sir John was the younger son of Sir Alexander Lindsay (1683-1762), of Evelick and his wife Amelia Murray (1691-1774), the sister of Lord Mansfield, who lived in what today is a ruined castle at Evelick, Perth, Scotland.

Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay)
Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay); Glasgow Museums

We know that they had also two daughters, one being Margaret, who married the famous artist Allan Ramsay.

Margaret Lindsay, the second Mrs Allan Ramsay. Portrait painted by her husband c.1758-1760.
Margaret Lindsay, the second Mrs Allan Ramsay. Portrait painted by her husband c.1758-1760. National Galleries of Scotland

We know that his elder brother Sir David Lindsay who was married to Susannah Long whose family lived  in Jamaica where they owned plantations Sir David inherited the title from his father and her brother was Edward Long, the famous author of The History of Jamaica, his views on slavery were, even at that time considered extreme.

Lt. General Sir David Lindsay of Evelick, 4th Baronet ( circa 1732 - died 1797) c. 1761 by Gervase Spencer (Courtesy of Online Galleries)
Lt. General Sir David Lindsay of Evelick, 4th Baronet ( circa 1732 – died 1797) c. 1761 by Gervase Spencer (Courtesy of Online Galleries)

We know that Sir John’s other sister, Katherine, married Lord Henderland and that Sir Alexander’s children were nephews to Lord Mansfield.

Lady Katherine Lindsay, Lady Henderland Attributed to William Yellowlees. National Gallery of Scotland
Lady Katherine Lindsay, Lady Henderland Attributed to William Yellowlees. National Gallery of Scotland

Why are we telling you things you probably know? Well, we could argue that that is the whole point, it’s all pretty well documented, you can find all of this is in books and online in a matter of minutes if you wanted to, such being the power of the internet!

It wasn’t until we started trying to find exact dates for the baptisms of Sir Alexander’s children (with no luck whatsoever), that annoyingly, we realised that none of them appeared to have been baptised, which seems extremely unusual for that period in time. We don’t seem to have fathomed that one out. Nor, so far, does there appear to be any record of a marriage for Sir Alexander to Amelia although we’re sure they were legally married.

All references we have seen about Sir John Lindsay state that he was the younger son i.e. one of two sons. What does, however, seem to have been almost completely air-brushed out of the family history is Sir Alexander’s middle son – William Lindsay. We stumbled across his existence by chance and began to delve further and have only found two references to his existence in books, but why?

Well, in all likelihood, William who was born 18th December 1734, left Scotland when aged just 16 and set off for a role in the East India Company. Sir Alexander had an heir – David, so it fell to the second son to take a different path in life.

How do we know of his existence? Because it was his uncle, William Murray, later to become the 1st Lord Mansfield who confirmed it in a letter written in 1750. The letter was written from Lincoln’s Inn to the all-powerful East India Company (EIC) when William was being sent out to India to make his fortune and was as confirmation of his age and explaining that the EIC wouldn’t find a baptism for the boy, as none existed. The document also confirms that William had successfully undertaken a course in mathematics and book-keeping.

From the British India Collection
From the British India Collection

William appears to have been posted as a lieutenant to, what was then known as British Bencoolen in Sumatra (now Bengkula). We then came across the sad report of his death in the EIC records. He was suffering from mental health issues and was being returned home to Britain by ship when he died at sea around September 1779.

South East View of Fort Marlborough, Benkulen, Sumatra, 1799. Yale Centre for British Art
South East View of Fort Marlborough, Benkulen, Sumatra, 1799. Yale Centre for British Art

His death appears to have made even more tragic as he left 3 orphans when he died. So far we haven’t been able to trace these children nor find out what became of them. We know that a committee met to discuss their plight decide what was to be done with them, but they concluded that more information was required from Scotland before any decision could be reached.

Given that both Sir John and William were in the EIC we wondered whether the two brothers would ever have met up; of course, we have no idea but it would be good to believe that if they did and that they exchanged news about both families. We do wonder what, if anything Dido knew of her uncle or of her cousins.

For a complete list of articles written to date about Dido Elizabeth Belle and her family follow the highlighted link.


Jervise, Andrew. The history and traditions of the land of the Lindsays in Angus

British India Collection

Featured Image

Government House & Council House, Fort Marlborough, Benkulen, Sumatra, 1799 Yale Centre for British Art

Art Detectives: Young Woman with Servant

Following on from a blog about Dido Elizabeth Belle, one of our lovely readers made us aware of this unusual painting titled, Young Woman with Servant which is on display at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.

Stephen Slaughter. English, 1697–1765.  Young Woman with Servant by Stephen Slaughter (1697-1765).
Stephen Slaughter. English, 1697–1765.  Young Woman with Servant by Stephen Slaughter (1697-1765). Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund.

Why unusual? It is odd on so many levels. For starters the subject matter, it is titled ‘young woman with servant’ so which is the young woman and which the servant? Whilst looking at it, we found ourselves almost playing a game of ‘spot the difference’.

Let’s look at each woman in turn. The seated woman is wearing no jewels apart from very plain earrings and a jewel on her apron. The artist has made her face appear somewhat one-dimensional and she’s staring into the distance. Would she really have been the one holding the fruit? The hat with flowers is such, a typical wide-brimmed day hat.

The servant: she is dressed in all her finery, notice the detailed lace around the neckline and the arms of the dress, much more elaborate than the lace which the other woman is wearing. She wears no hat, instead, a form of headdress with a fashionable feather in it and a jewel. And those jewels! She is much more adorned than her seated companion, wearing an elaborate necklace and earrings too. Her hand resting on the naked skin of the other woman – would a servant ever be allowed to do that? A symbol of intimacy, surely not acceptable at that time?  She is also looking directly at the artist (and viewer) and appears much more three-dimensional. The dress may also be riding habit, if you look closely you can see the ‘frog fasteners’ typically used on outdoor wear.

Detail from the portrait of Young Woman with Servant by Stephen Slaughter.

The setting itself looks to be a hothouse or possibly an artificial grotto. There is fruit in the seated woman’s apron and the orange just about to be picked and added to it. Notice the chair that the ‘mistress’ is sitting on.

We have tried to find a similar example of that period, but without success, although there are reproductions of virtually the same chair dating from the late 1800s which describe it as Rococo (1725-1755), possibly French or Italian, playful, ornate and curvaceous, with a shell-shaped back and serpent arms.

So, it does rather beg the question, is the young woman standing really a servant or an equal? It has also been given the title, Two Society Women.

The painting appeared in a Sotheby’s catalogue of sales dated 19th November 1986, which gave it a yet another, Ladies Gathering Fruit, c.1750, so we contacted Sotheby’s hoping for some more information on its provenance, but unfortunately, they were unable to provide responses to individual questions, so we were no further forward. We also approached Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and are still hopeful of a more positive response from them.

Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745), Prime Minister by Stephen Slaughter
Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745), Prime Minister by Stephen Slaughter; Parliamentary Art Collection

We then decided to research the artist himself, Stephen Slaughter for more clues.

Sir Hans Sloane, by Stephen Slaughter
Sir Hans Sloane, by Stephen Slaughter; National Portrait Gallery, London

Stephen was born in London in January 1697, one of five surviving children of Stephen and Judith Slaughter. Their other children were Edward, Catherine, Mary and Judith.

Very little seems to be known about his life and as such he warrants very few mentions in books, only half a dozen entries in the newspapers of the day, a brief resume in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies and a short entry on Wikipedia.

Gertrude, Daughter of John Leveson Gower, 1st Lord Gower by Stephen Slaughter
Gertrude, Daughter of John Leveson Gower, 1st Lord Gower by Stephen Slaughter; The National Trust for Scotland, Alloa Tower

Slaughter studied under the famous Godfrey Kneller, then travelled abroad to France and Flanders, returning to England around 1732. He then moved to Dublin for a number of years, returning to London in the 1740s.

In 1745 he was appointed Surveyor of the King’s Pictures (George II), with a salary of £200 per annum (around £24,000 in today’s money). From 1748 until his death in 1765, Slaughter spent time on picture restoration. He was buried on 2nd April 1765 at Kensington.

Portrait of Sir Edward Walpole's Children by Stephen Slaughter
Portrait of Sir Edward Walpole’s Children by Stephen Slaughter. Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Just to set the record straight here, only one of his female siblings married and that was his sister, Judith.

There has been much debate as to whether she married the artist John Lewis, but we can confirm that she didn’t –  she married a Paul Lewis, when she was aged just 16, as confirmed by the marriage allegation dated 4th January 1726, St Giles in the Field.

Judith was widowed by the time her brother Edward wrote his will in April 1770. We can confirm, however, that the artist, John Lewis’s wife was Mary as named in his will, proven 1781.

Judith Slaughter's marriage allegation to Paul Lewis, 1726.
Judith Slaughter’s marriage allegation to Paul Lewis, 1726.

Each of the siblings left their estate to the next in line with Catherine being the last to die in 1786.

Suggestions have been made that this is a portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle with Lady Mary Milner. This seems extremely unlikely as the two women look to be of similar age and Lady Mary was considerably older than Dido.

If we accept that it was painted by Stephen Slaughter then he died when Dido was a mere toddler so it couldn’t possibly be her in the painting. So either way, as much as we would like it to be a portrait of both women, the theory falls flat on its face.

The portrait raises far more questions than it answers, so if anyone knows anything more about this painting, we would love to hear from you.

UPDATE 9th March 2019 – A Painting Within a Painting

Well, we did ask people to get in touch if they knew any more about the painting and we were contacted by Sheila Graham-Smith who is presently researching it, which sent us disappearing down another rabbit hole.

To cut a long story short, we knew from the Sotheby’s sale catalogue that there was a familial connection between the Manvers family of Thoresby Hall and the Butterfield family at Cliffe Castle, so arguably the painting could be of someone from either side of the family, or simply a painting purchased by someone in the family for its aesthetic value.

Purely by chance, we came across this painting by Marie-Louise Roosevelt Pierrepont (1889-1984), of Thoresby Hall, which is a painting of her daughter, at Thoresby.

Interior of Thoresby Hall (incorrectly identified as Cliffe Castle), with a Seated Girl and Dog (and showing the portrait, 'Ladies Gathering Fruit' (alternatively Young Woman with Servant) by Marie-Louise Roosevelt Pierrepont
Interior of Thoresby Hall (incorrectly identified as Cliffe Castle), with a Seated Girl and Dog (and showing the portrait, ‘Ladies Gathering Fruit’ (alternatively Young Woman with Servant) by Marie-Louise Roosevelt Pierrepont; © The Stonebridge Trust. Photo credit: The Pierrepont Collection

To the back of the painting you will clearly see that she had painted in Slaughter’s painting, ‘Ladies Gathering Fruit‘ (alternatively titled, Young Woman with Servant). The location of the painting whilst at Thoresby was clearly not taking pride of place, merely hung at the end of a corridor.

I contacted Thoresby who were able to confirm that, whilst not presently on display, they do hold the painting by Marie-Louise Roosevelt Pierrepont, a prolific artist and that the location depicted was Thoresby Hall and not Cliffe Castle as queried by ArtUK, but that they don’t know anything more about the original.

We have now reached another dead-end with research in terms of identifying either of the sitters, but hopefully, we’ll get there eventually.


I have recently been been sent yet another version of the painting, but note the differences. I now have no idea which would have been the original painting.


Ancestry.com. London and Surrey, England, Marriage Bonds and Allegations, 1597-1921 [database on-line]

Anecdotes of Painting in England. Horace Walpole

Greater London Burial Index

Covent Garden Market by Balthasar Nebot, 1737

The family of Allan Ramsay, principal portrait painter to George III

During research into Allan Ramsay, we have noticed that the information given online concerning his children is incorrect and – in some cases – missing altogether. So, today’s post is something of a genealogical exercise to fully document Ramsay’s twelve children, five sons and seven daughters, which, we hope, will prove informative for anyone else interested in Ramsay’s family. Plus, it is also just a fantastic opportunity to showcase some wonderful portraits and sketches.

Allan Ramsay, self portrait c.1755-1756.
Allan Ramsay, self-portrait c.1755-1756. National Galleries Scotland.

Born in Edinburgh and baptised on 6th October 1713 (according to the Gregorian calendar; 11 days need to be added to correspond to the Julian calendar), Ramsay was the eldest son of the poet and bookseller, Allan Ramsay (who was a wigmaker at the time of Allan’s birth) and his wife Christian neé Ross. Three of his siblings survived into adulthood, Janet, Catherine and Anne.

Miss Ramsay in a Red Dress c.1760-5 by Allan Ramsay. Believed to be one of Ramsay's two sisters, Janet or Catherine.
Miss Ramsay in a Red Dress c.1760-5 by Allan Ramsay. Believed to be one of Ramsay’s two sisters, Janet or Catherine. The Tate

Allan Ramsay junior’s talent was evident from an early age; his father described him as painting ‘like a Raphael’ and raised money to send Allan to Italy in order that he might study there.

By 1738, Ramsay was back in England, and he took rooms in the piazza in Covent Garden.

Covent Garden Market by Balthasar Nebot, 1737
Covent Garden Market by Balthasar Nebot, 1737; Tate

A year later, on 29 April 1739, Ramsay married Anne Bayne, a fellow Scot and the daughter of Alexander Bayne of Rires. Around the time of their wedding (which took place at St Benet, Paul Wharf), Ramsay painted Anne’s portrait.

Anne Bayne, the first Mrs Allan Ramsay who died in 1743. Portrait painted by her husband around the time of their marriage, c.1739.
Anne Bayne, the first Mrs Allan Ramsay who died in 1743. Portrait painted by her husband around the time of their marriage, c.1739. National Galleries of Scotland

Three children were born to the couple, two sons Allan and Bayne, who both died young before Anne herself died in childbirth early in 1743 giving birth to a daughter who was named Anne, for her mother. She survived, at least for a few years. On 11 January 1747 another Anne Ramsay was buried in the churchyard at Covent Garden, this one a spinster. It seems probable that this was Ramsay’s sister, Anne.

Allan Ramsay's infant son, Allan, who survived to just 14 months of age. Painted by Ramsay c.1740-1741.
Allan Ramsay’s infant son, Allan, who survived to just 14 months of age. Painted by Ramsay c.1740-1741. National Galleries of Scotland

Ramsay spent much of the following years in Scotland, where his fame grew, if not his wealth. He was supporting not only his young daughter but his two spinster sisters too, Catherine and Janet. Certainly Sir Alexander Lindsay of Evelick didn’t consider Ramsay a suitable husband for his 26-year-old daughter, Margaret, whom Ramsay was teaching to draw. Denied her father’s approval, Margaret eloped with Ramsay and they married on 1 March 1752 at the Canongate in Edinburgh.

Margaret Lindsay, the second Mrs Allan Ramsay. Portrait painted by her husband c.1758-1760.
Margaret Lindsay, the second Mrs Allan Ramsay. Portrait painted by her husband c.1758-1760. National Galleries of Scotland

Later that year, just a day shy of 33 weeks after the marriage, Margaret gave birth to twins. In an attempt to placate her father, who still disapproved of her husband, the babes were named Alexander and Amelia after Margaret’s parents; they were baptized on 17 October 1752 at St Paul’s in Covent Garden and sadly buried there the very next day. By the end of 1753, the Ramsays were back in Scotland, living in Edinburgh and there, in February 1754, another son was born, again named Alexander. This infant was left behind in Scotland when his parents travelled to Italy the following year. Margaret was soon pregnant once again.

A daughter, Amelia was born in March 1755 at Rome but sadly, back in Edinburgh, little Alexander had died; he was buried on 23 June 1755.

By the end of 1758, Ramsay had brought his family back to London and taken lodgings on the western side of Soho Square (then called King’s Square, the name given because of the statue of Charles II which stood there).

King Square in Soho, looking towards Monmouth House.
King Square in Soho, looking towards Monmouth House. © The Trustees of the British Museum

On 9 November 1758, another daughter was born to Allan and Margaret Ramsay; she was baptized with the name Elisabeth eight days later at St. Anne’s, Soho. Two more daughters were to swiftly follow, Frances born 16 February 1760 and Grizelda on 19 July 1761. Sadly, none were destined to live long: Grizelda lived for less than six weeks and was buried (as Grizell Ramsay) at Chiswick on 29 August and Elisabeth died almost a year later at three years of age. She was laid to rest in the Soho churchyard on 22 August 1762 where her sister Frances joined her on 4 July 1765.

A ray of light amongst the darkness was the birth of Charlotte in 1765, the youngest daughter of the family. Charlotte was strong and healthy and would survive.

Amelia Ramsay, daughter of the artist. Painted by her father and dated 8 July 1776.
Amelia Ramsay, daughter of the artist. Painted by her father and dated 8 July 1776. National Galleries of Scotland.

The final child born to Ramsay was a son, named John, who was baptized at St Marylebone on 14 June 1768. Probably he was named after his uncle, Margaret’s brother Sir John Lindsay who is perhaps better remembered as the father of Dido Elizabeth Belle.

Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay)
Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay); Glasgow Museums

Allan Ramsay suffered ill health during his later years and died at Dover on his return to London from Florence on 10 August 1784 and was buried at St Marylebone church on 18th August 1784 where Margaret had been buried two years earlier. But, what of their three surviving children, Amelia, Charlotte and John?

All three Ramsay siblings appear to have shared a love of adventure, for they travelled the globe. Amelia married an army officer, Archibald Campbell (later General Sir Archibald Campbell) at St Marylebone on 8 July 1779. Campbell was posted abroad (he was governor of Jamaica between 1781 and 1784) and Amelia and her sister, Charlotte sailed to be with him in 1780. They were aboard the storeship, British Queen, captain Hodge, in a convoy of 63 ships bound for the West Indies.

Major-General Sir Archibald Campbell of Inverneil and Ross KB, Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Madras by George Romney, 1790.
Major-General Sir Archibald Campbell of Inverneil and Ross KB, Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Madras by George Romney, 1790. National Army Museum

The ships were East and West Indiamen, storeships, victuallers and transports (with the 90th Regiment of Foot on board), and while it might have been felt that there was safety in numbers, it was a perilous time. Spain had sided with the US in the American Revolutionary War and declared war on Britain. At Cape St Vincent in the Algarve, on 9 August 1780, the convoy of British ships met a combined Spanish and French fleet and it was disastrous. All but eight of the British vessels were captured.

The action of 9 August 1780 when all but 8 ships out of a British convoy of 63 were captured by a combined force of French and Spanish.
The action of 9 August 1780 when all but 8 ships out of a British convoy of 63 were captured by a combined force of French and Spanish. Image via Wikimedia

The new Mrs Amelia Campbell and her sister, Charlotte Ramsay were incredibly lucky; their ship, the British Queen, was one of the eight which evaded capture and they managed to make it unscathed to Jamaica and Campbell’s protection.

Seven years later, on 1 February 1787 and possibly in India, Charlotte married Lieutenant Colonel Henry Malcolm, Adjutant-General to the East-India Company’s troops on the coast of Coromandel, South East India.

John Ramsay joined the army and he too made his way to India. In 1789 a ship returning to England from Madras via St Helena numbered among the passengers:

Sir Archibald Campbell, K.B, family and suite; Mrs Malcolm… Capt. John Ramsay…

Amelia and Sir Archibald Campbell had no children, but she did bring up two children as her own, a boy who shared her husband’s name, Archibald Campbell and a girl born c.1784, Mary Macleod, who Amelia thought of as her adopted daughter.

Amelia Campbell née Ramsay died in 1813 and was buried (on 15 July 1813) in Westminster Abbey alongside her husband, Sir Archibald who had died 23 years earlier. (Their grave is in the south transept of the abbey, next to that of George Frederic Handel.) After Amelia’s death, Mary Macleod went to live with Charlotte who became as close to the girl as her sister had been; both Amelia and Charlotte left the bulk of their wealth to Mary. Indeed, Charlotte, in her will, declared that she viewed Mary as a daughter.

On 6 January 1837, Charlotte Malcolm née Ramsay was buried at St Marylebone. John Ramsay, who was promoted to the rank of general, lived until 1845; he died in Geneva.

John Ramsay; soldier, son of Allan Ramsay by François Ferrière, 1794.
John Ramsay; soldier, son of Allan Ramsay by François Ferrière, 1794. National Galleries of Scotland

The family home in Edinburgh

Allan Ramsay's House. National Galleries Scotland
Allan Ramsay’s House. National Galleries Scotland

To recap, the children of Allan Ramsay are as follows:

By Anne Bayne:

Allan – 1740-1741

Bayne – 1741-? (died young)

Anne – 1743-? (died young after 1752)

By Margaret Lindsay:

Alexander and Amelia (twins) – 1752-1752

Alexander – 1754-1755

Amelia – 1755-1813

Elisabeth – 1758-1762

Frances – 1760-1765

Grizelda – 1761-1761

Charlotte – 1765-1837

John – 1768-1845


For ease, we have used new style rather than old style dates, except where noted.

Ramsay’s daughter Anne, from his first marriage, was alive when he remarried in 1752 as she was mentioned in a letter he wrote to his father-in-law, but she did not survive into adulthood.

Elisabeth, born 9 November 1758, seems to have been confused in most, if not all sources for Charlotte born 1765. In fact, the short-lived Elisabeth, Frances and Grizelda appear to have been totally overlooked and Charlotte, known as one of only two Ramsay’s daughters by Margaret Lindsay to have survived to adulthood, ascribed to the 1758 birth on the basis of a letter written by Ramsay to Sir Alexander Dick congratulating Sir Alexander on the birth of a daughter and remarking that he had recently been similarly blessed.

In the 1851 census, Mary Macleod said she had been born at sea but was a British subject.

Dido Elizabeth Belle

Dido Elizabeth Belle – an update

As many readers are aware, over the past few months I have been researching the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle and her family, in addition to the usual eclectic mix of posts. Some information about her life has now been in the public domain for a number of years, including the film made about her life, ‘Belle‘, but since this quest began it has been possible to uncover some new pieces of information about her life, that of her siblings and her husband, and of course, there’s been renewed interest in her since the BBC programme about the painting itself.

Today I would like to share some more information received from one of our lovely readers, Chris Goddard, about John Davinière.*

In an earlier post it was suggested that the witness to Dido’s marriage was John Coventry, Chris however, has suggested that it might have been a John Courtoy, a peruke-maker and one of the wealthiest men in London at that time. Both men’s signatures being extremely similar, if rather difficult to decipher.

The top signature appeared on Dido’s marriage entry in 1793, the bottom one being Courtoy’s signature in 1814. As you can see they are very similar. City of Westminster Archives Centre; London, England; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: STG/PR/7/8


Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P76/JS1/036

Above shows John Coventry’s signature at the time of his second marriage in 1809, as a comparison.

If this is the case, quite what Courtoy’s connection to Davinière was remains unknown, apart from them both being French.

Courtoy was a peruke maker, as was John Daviniere’s grandfather. Could that have been the connection? Did Daviniere come to England at the instigation of one of his relatives, and did he then work for Courtoy, who lived in the parish of St Martin in the Fields, where Daviniere also completed his marriage bond, rather than Coventry, as believed by Etienne Daly).

No conclusive answer has come to light as yet, but it seems quite feasible, so watch this space.

With the help of Chris, it has been possible to begin to piece together a little more of what became of the Davinière family when they returned to France in around 1830, long after the death of Dido.

The town of Ducey where John Daviniere and his wife Jane lived
The town of Ducey where John Daviniere and his wife Jane lived

We know that John, his second wife Jane Holland and their son Edward returned to John’s place of birth, Ducey, France and that Edward returned to England on 24 August 1837, briefly to witness his half brother’s  marriage in London.

The newspapers in France confirm that their son, Edward was involved in an incident and that Edward Henry Davinière, aged 30, described as a medical student at the time, was forcibly committed to an asylum in Dinan, as he had threated to ‘blow out the brain‘ of the mayor of Ducey and that he made threats against the mayor’s wife and her servant, following arguments with his father. Was Edward Henry mentally unstable, was that possibly their reason for leaving England in the first place? This new piece of information brings with it its own questions for which more research is still required.

It would appear that perhaps in light of this incident, John felt it was time for a move, so advertised his beautiful house for sale.

Beautiful property for sale presently. It consists of a superb mansion, with kitchen, dining room, living room, three bedrooms, three closets and an attic; it is freshly parqueted, panelled, painted and carpeted – a laundry, cellars, shed, stable, wine press, vault and latrine; a garden, fruit and vegetable garden and an orchard; in total about eighty acres, is closed by beautiful hedges of bleached thorns, and is located near the village of Ducey, a very small distance from the departmental road of Alençon to St Malo. The house is furnished with a rich new furniture, that will be sold with the house if the purchaser wishes. To visit this property and discuss the price, contact Davinière who occupies it.

John’s death certificate confirms that he died 31 March 1847 at his home in Ducey and names his late parents as Charles and Madeleine, his wife as Jane nee Holland.

Death of John Daviniere from parish records of Ducey.

There was also a nine page inventory of  his possessions, which is being translated.

It is known from these documents that he left his widow Jane, a landowner/annuitant (le rentière) and their son Edward in France and that their daughter Lavinia Amelia was living with her husband family in London, but until now it wasn’t known for certain whether mother and son remained in France. It appears that they did, as Jane appeared in January 1851, on a type of ‘census’ for Avranches, just a few miles from Ducey, no further information provided, just her name as the widow of Davinière.

Jane (or Jeanne Holland), as she was referred to, (the French helpfully use a woman’s maiden name on death certificates), died at her home on Rue Ormont, Avranches, France in March 1851, at which time all her household belongings were sold off. The death certificate gave her age as 53, this can’t possibly have been correct, given the ages of her children – Lavinia would have been 39 and Edward, 41. Perhaps a lady never tells her true age would be a wise assumption in this case and that 63 would appear much closer to the truth.(See below for another update).

On 21st April 1851, the late Jeanne Holland, widow of Louis Jean Charles Davinière’s house and possessions were sold off. After his mother’s death, Edward was placed in the asylum in Pontorson (about a 15 minute drive from Ducey) during which time there was a guardianship case involving his sister who lived in England.

Pontorson Asylum
Pontorson Asylum

Edward Henry died at Pontorson on 29th May 1867.

From La Manche Archives
From La Manche Archives

The death of Edward with his parents clearly named
The death of Edward with his parents clearly named

An update to the update (16 September 2022). I have finally managed to find Jane’s death notice in the French archives which confirms that she was born at  Littlebourne, Kent and as we can see below, she was baptised at the parish church, on 19 May 1782, daughter of John and Jane Holland (nee Fox) which matches the information provided on the notification of death, making Jane 14 years John’s junior.

Canterbury Cathedral Archives. U3/73/1/2 1684-1812

Jane was one of at least 7 children and as can be seen below, their father, a labourer, abandoned the family when Jane was just one year old leaving her mother to seek assistance from the parish. This seems to indicate that Janes social status was very different to that of John’s first wife. As yet there’s no explanation as to how Jane ended up  in London, but it would seem likely that she was sent there to work, perhaps probably as a maid. When she married John she was able to sign the marriage register, but whether that was the extent of her written ability remains unknown.

Kentish Gazette 03 May 1783
Kentish Gazette 03 May 1783

At this stage, with the continued interest in the life of Dido, I thought it might be a good idea to provide links to all the individual articles under one roof. This will no doubt be added to as more information comes to light, so please do feel free to check back from time to time.

Dido Elizabeth Belle and John Davinière, what became of them?

The Descendants of Dido Elizabeth Belle

Dido Elizabeth Belle: Questions and Answers

Dido Elizabeth Belle – New information about her siblings

Dido Elizabeth Belle – Ranelagh Street, Pimlico

Dido Elizabeth Belle – A new perspective on her portrait

The missing brother of Sir John Lindsay

Dido Elizabeth Belle portrait – BBC Fake or Fortune

The Eighteenth-Century Fashion for Turbans

An Eighteenth-Century game of ‘Degrees of Separation’

Is Dido Elizabeth Belle still buried at St George’s burial ground in Bayswater Road?

Where are Dido Elizabeth Belle’s sons buried?

Who lived in these houses on Hertford Street, Mayfair?

HMS Dido

Other articles/books that have been written about Dido and/or her family in the past, but which contain out of date information, but which  you might find of interest are:

Adams, Gene.  Dido Elizabeth Belle: a black girl at Kenwood: an account of a protégée of the 1st Lord Mansfield

Byrne, Paula. Belle: The True Story of Dido Belle

Gerzina, Gretchen. Black London: Life before Emancipation

Heward, Edmund. Lord Mansfield

Minney, Sarah. Inside Out: Abolition of the British Slave Trade special

Stringfield, Margo. Real Story of ‘Belle’ has Pensacola Connections

There are also numerous blogs and books in addition to ours that have told part of Dido’s story which I’m sure you will find  with a quick online search.

If you have any questions or any additional information about Dido I would love to hear from you. New snippets of information seem to be appearing almost daily, which is great news as they all help to provide a more accurate and detailed account of her life and that of her family.

* I should also like to acknowledge Judy Jerkins who started the ball rolling with her research into the life of Courtoy and David Godson who has written an account of Courtoy’s life.

Header Image

Dido Elizabeth Belle. The portrait hangs at Scone Palace in Perthshire.


Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.

Dido Elizabeth Belle, her portrait

For those of us who watched BBC’s Fake or Fortune which took a look at the stunning painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle and her cousin Lady Elizabeth, we were delighted that the team were finally been able to put a name to the artist which has been unknown for so long, and confirmed – as we suggested – that it was not painted by Zoffany.

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.
Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany. The portrait hangs at Scone Palace in Perthshire.

In a previous blog about the painting we did speculate that it may have been by David Martin but also offered ours and Etienne Daly (an expert in all things Dido)’s opinion that it was more likely to have been by Allan Ramsay given his familial connections. Well, we now have an answer – or do we?

As we’ve been asked whether our opinion has changed after viewing the programme, we decided to look at the evidence provided. This is quite a long post, so bear with us.

Our answer to the posed question is, in short, not totally, although we’re not and never have professed to be art experts. For us, there are still some questions which have remained unanswered.

If we’re trying to give Dido back her rightful place in society we need to start at the beginning of the programme and correct the first statement made about Dido.

Dido Elizabeth Belle was NOT born into slavery.  Whilst her mother had been a slave who was brought to England by Sir John Lindsay, Dido was born in England and not as a slave, but the natural daughter of an aristocrat. We know this from the snippet of information written by Thomas Hutchinson in his diary. Why would he fabricate this fact? He had nothing to gain and was merely repeating what he been told on previous occasions by Lord Mansfield.

I knew her history before, but my Lord mentioned it again. Sir John Lindsay having taken her mother prisoner in a Spanish vessel, brought her to England, where she was delivered of this girl.

Next, Dido’s freedom was technically given by Lord Mansfield on 17th April 1782 when he wrote his will and not upon his death in 1793; she would have been just coming up to her 21st birthday, so perfect timing.

Along with confirming her freedom, Lord Mansfield gave her £100 per year, after the death of his wife, which took place on 10 April 1784 (from a ‘paraletic stroke’*), to which he subsequently added a further payment of £200 ‘to set out with‘, plus £300 in a later codicil, making an overall total of some £900. That seems a strange comment for him to have made, but, it could be argued that if he thought he was to die shortly, that Dido would need to be self-sufficient as she may no longer have been able to live at Kenwood after his death.

Although Dido had never been a slave, this document was important as it would legally have affirmed her social status so that there could be no possible misunderstanding after his death, whenever that should come, and to ensure that there was no possibility of her ever being regarded as a slave. After Lord Mansfield’s death, she became a free woman with status, an heiress in her own right, which showed a good deal of foresight on Lord Mansfield’s part and ensured that she was financially secure.

Portrait of Lady Marjory - screenshot from BBC Fake or Fortune
Portrait of Lady Marjory – screenshot from BBC Fake or Fortune

Now, moving on to the portrait itself, based upon the scientific findings of Philip Mould and his team it would certainly appear likely that the portrait above, in the family’s private collection, was painted by the same person who painted the portrait of Lady Marjory. However, the programme left us to accept that (a) it was a painting of Lady Marjory and (b) that it was painted by David Martin and (c) some ten years previously, without explaining how they knew these facts. From our perspective and for clarity, it might have been helpful if those explanations of the provenance were offered.

Assuming it was Lady Marjory (- 19th April 1799), niece to Lord Mansfield, the similarities in style between the paintings was clear to see – the face shape, the lips, the fingers on the cheek. We know that Lady Marjory and Dido were close as Dido was a beneficiary in Lady Marjory’s will, so perhaps the pose was Dido’s attempt to emulate Lady Marjory’s portrait, although Lady Marjory’s attitude looks pensive, whereas Dido’s is slightly mischievous.

Portrait of Lady Marjory and Dido and Lady Elizabeth together - screenshot from BBC Fake or Fortune
Portrait of Lady Marjory and Dido and Lady Elizabeth together – screenshot from BBC Fake or Fortune. Both portraits are at Scone Palace in Perthshire.

Whilst the technology has confirmed that the portrait of Lady Marjory and Dido were painted using the same paint, for us, it doesn’t confirm that they were by the same artist. Surely it’s feasible that two artists could have used the same paint – after all Martin was Ramsay’s protégé, so perhaps both used the same supplier? Theoretical, of course.

The expert, at the end of the programme, was also able to confirm, based on the evidence, that it was by Martin, but equally, he acknowledged that Martin had been Ramsay’s protégé. So, again, although Martin was a respected artist by that time in his own right, couldn’t either he, Ramsay or both have worked on the painting of Dido as a favour to the family, especially as Allan Ramsay was her uncle? We still hold the opinion that, given the playful nature of the portrait, it was definitely painted by someone with whom the girls felt relaxed and comfortable with. Arguably, either artist would fit the bill.

It was very interesting to note that the portrait was unframed, according to the 1796 inventory. Had it been a commission you would have expected it to be presented in a frame or framed by the family shortly after and given her status within the family it seems desperately sad that so soon after her marriage it had been stored away along with broken furniture etc. We also wondered why it hadn’t been retained by Dido as a keepsake if the family no longer had it on display.

Payment made to David Martin in 1776 from Lord Mansfield's accounts. Screenshot from Fake or Fortune
Payment made to David Martin in 1776 from Lord Mansfield’s accounts. Screenshot from Fake or Fortune

As suggested by that record in the accounts book, if the payment to David Martin was for the portrait of Dido,  then at best, Dido would have only been 15 years old; she does not look like a girl of 15, she looks to be late teens in our humble opinion.

The date of the painting has long been regarded as 1779 when it was attributed to Zoffany. We don’t think it is likely to have been painted much before that, given that Dido was born in June 1761, which was fairly accurately confirmed by James Beattie, who visited Lord Mansfield and met Dido, around July 1771.

If dated to 1779 she would be about 18 at the time of it originally being painted. We do know that in 1779 her father, Sir John Lindsay was in England, so maybe he was aware of the painting and rather than being a commissioned piece is struck us that it was more likely to have been a keepsake or memento which, it could be argued would explain why there was no obvious payment for it.

Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay)
Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay); Glasgow Museums

Also, it was on the 19th October 1776 that Lord Mansfield was raised from Baron to Earl, following which several copies of an earlier portrait by David Martin were produced, showing his elevated status.

Martin, David; William Murray (1705-1793), 1st Earl of Mansfield, Lord Chief Justice; National Galleries of Scotland

The original portrait at Kenwood is of Lord Mansfield prior to becoming an earl and dated 1775 (on Art UK) – note the difference between that and the one held at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, dated 1777 (below) and painted after his elevation.

Was the 1776 payment for completion of the earlier portrait, or for the copies made subsequently rather than for the portrait featuring Dido?

William Murray (1705-1793), Baron Mansfield and Lord Chief Justice by David Martin; English Heritage, Kenwood (hint: look closely at his ermine)

Following the programme, Philip Mould has now added some exciting news which didn’t make it into the programme; the portrait we see today is not the original, as such, but rather it was added to at a later date by a different artist. The change to the portrait really does make a huge difference to the perception of Dido and her position within the painting and society in general.

And finally, Etienne Daly has visited Kenwood House frequently and has been trying to work out whereabouts the painting was done within the ground.

Could this be the very spot where the portrait was painted (the bare patch in the foreground)?

© Sylvia & Etienne Daly
© Sylvia & Etienne Daly

We are still trying to piece together the life of David Martin, but this is proving tricky. If we’re able together to do so, we will write another post in due course.

To find out more about what became about Dido Belle follow the links below.

Dido Elizabeth Belle and John Davinière, what became of them?

Dido Elizabeth Belle – we reveal NEW information about her siblings

The missing brother of Sir John Lindsay

The Eighteenth Century Fashion for Turbans

An Eighteenth Century game of ‘Degrees of Separation’

*Mary Hamilton Papers  

Dido Elizabeth Belle and John Davinière, what became of them?

For regular readers, you will by now have probably gathered that as well as all the other research, I have also been investigating the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle.  Dido, her life and family have become something of an obsession of late and hopefully this and other articles on All Things Georgian, will help to rectify some of the misinformation that currently exists. Links to all articles about Dido can be found at the end of this one.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido Elizabeth Belle & Sam Reid as John Davinieré
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido Elizabeth Belle & Sam Reid as John Davinière

Today’s post takes a look at what happened to the real Dido Elizabeth Belle, who, at the end of the film Belle,walked off into the sunset’ with her man, the lawyer, John Davinière.


 Ducey as it looks today. Courtesy of Wikipedia
Ducey as it looks today. Courtesy of Wikipedia

To begin with, John Daviniere was not, the son of the local Reverend in Hampstead, nor was he a lawyer and as such would have had absolutely no involvement in the Zong massacre case. A little creative licence used with that one! 

John Davinière, as he was known in England, was born Louis Jean Charles Davinière in the town of Ducey in the Normandy region of France and was one of several children born to Charles Davinière and his wife Madeleine Le Pelletier. He was baptised on 21 December 1768, making him several years Dido’s junior. His grandfather, we now know, was a peruke (wig) maker.

A massive thank you goes out to one of my lovely readers, who very kindly translated into English for me,  John’s parents marriage entry, which states that John’s mother was a seamstress and on the baptism of one of their other children he has identified that John’s father, was a tailor.

John left his native France for England towards the end of the 1780s, so, just prior to the French Revolution which began 1789. The date of his departure from France is not quite clear as it appears in a couple of sources later in his life, at which time he gave differing years for his arrival into England.

British India Office Births & Baptisms - L-MIL-9-123
British India Office Births & Baptisms – L-MIL-9-123

However, on coming to England, he found work as a steward or valet, again the terminology of his occupation varies slightly in different sources, but on his marriage bond it merely described him as a servant of St Martin’s in the Fields (see image below).

It remains unknown as to how John would have met Dido, but it seems feasible that the Murray or Ramsay family would have been involved in some way. It is known that Allan Ramsay had painted a portrait of the 6th Earl of Coventry in the 1760s and Dido’s marriage entry provided a snippet of information in the shape of one of the witnesses, who, it seems possible could have been John Coventry, who was the second son of the 6th Earl of Coventry, who owned a townhouse on Piccadilly and for whom it’s feasible that John initially worked for. The other witness was Dido’s  friend or possibly her servant, Martha Darnell. Martha may well have worked at Kenwood House as according to the accounts books, there was a housemaid there during Dido’s time, named Martha. Sadly no surname was given for this housemaid.

St George's, Hanover Square by T. Malton, 1787
St George’s, Hanover Square by T. Malton, 1787

According to the Westminster rates books, not long after their marriage on 5 December 1793, at the fashionable church of St George’s, Hanover Square, the newly weds moved into a newly built house, 14, Ranelagh Street North, near St George’s Hanover Square.

London Land Tax Records. London, England: London Metropolitan Archives. 1794

It’s interesting to note that the happy couple married on the same day, at the same church, and by the same vicar, as the first Duke of Sussex and his bride Lady Augusta Murray, but that’s another story.

Click to see enlarged image
City of Westminster Archives Centre; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: STG/PR/7/8. Click to see enlarged image

It should be mentioned that whilst St George’s, Hanover Square was regarded as ‘the‘ church to marry, for the elite, it also saw its fair share of marriage for of trades people and servants, who perhaps worked for the elite. The church was for everyone and there are plenty of entries which support this, including some marriages by couples who were only able to sign the register with an ‘X’ i.e. unable to write, but who also paid the fee to marry by licence.

The overwhelming number of marriages in the register were marriages via banns i.e. making a very public declaration of their union, but  a handful were by Special Licence i.e. they married somewhere else, but their marriage was subsequently recorded in the register (these would be people from elite society who acquired special dispensation to do so, such as Viscount Stormont, who married in 1776 at the home of his bride, Hon. Louisa Cathcart), the marriage then being noted in the register of St George’s.

Dido and John however, were also part of small group, whose who were married by paying a small licence fee, usually just a few pounds. This type of marriage was usually for a specific reason, and this highlighted link explains more, but to date, there are no clues as to why they chose this option.

When they married, the marriage bond (which cost £200), confirms John’s occupation to be that of a servant, but  as yet, who he worked for at that time remains unknown for certain.

£200 was a significant sum of money, and as John described himself as a ‘servant‘ at that time, would he have had that sort of money for the Bond, or did Dido pay it on his behalf, from her inheritance from Lord Mansfield?

Marriage Bonds and Allegations. London, England: London Metropolitan Archives – DL/A/D/24/MS10091E/106

They appear to have lived a happy life and with this union they saw the arrival of 3 sons, John, Charles (most likely named after John’s father) and William Thomas, of which two, Charles (1795-1873) and William Thomas (1800-1867), survived into adulthood, John, who we now know survived until at least 1804.

City of Westminster Archives Centre; London, England; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: STG/PR/2/5
City of Westminster Archives Centre; London, England; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: STG/PR/2/5

John and Dido wouldn’t have started life short of money, as Dido received not only an inheritance from Lord Mansfield who died in 1793 of several hundred pounds, plus a regular annuity of £100 per annum.

Reading Mercury 15 April 1793

In 1799 upon the death of Lady Margery Murray (Lord Mansfield’s niece), she received a further legacy of £100, as ‘a token of her regard for Dido’.

John Crauford. National Portrait Gallery.
John Craufurd. National Portrait Gallery.

In July 1804, Dido was sadly to die, leaving John to raise the boys alone. It is now known that Lady Anne Murray who died in 1817, wrote her will after Dido died in 1804 and acknowledged that she knew Dido had died, but still left money to all 3 of her boys, however, banking records confirm that upon Lady Anne’s death her legacies of £50 each, were only paid to Charles and William Thomas.

The exact date of Dido’s burial remains unknown as there were many burials at St George’s Fields that month and most, unhelpfully, were not dated. Dido’s was number 56 out of  73, so it was probably towards the end of that month. A question many people have asked about is how Dido died. The answer is quite simply that it’s impossible to know, as death certificates, as we know them today, simply didn’t exist in 1804, so it was always remain a cause of speculation.  Having checked the newspapers for that period, just in case her death was mentioned in there, sadly, to date, there is no mention of it.

The entry in the burial register for Dido July 1804
City of Westminster Archives Centre; London, England; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: STG/PR/8/4. The entry in the burial register for Dido July 1804.

It is believed that her remains were removed during the development of that site, but no conclusive evidence exists to substantiate this. The whole site was not redeveloped, so it is feasible that her remains may still be there, potentially buried some 10+ feet down as deep burials were thought to prevent grave robbers.  Part of the redevelopment of that area now consists of dwellings.

Image courtesy of Etienne Daly who believes that Dido's grave may well be located in the area of the red dots (just above the square), which is outside of the property development therefore potentially still in situ
Image courtesy of Etienne Daly who believes that Dido’s grave may well be located in the area of the red dots (just above the square), which is outside of the property development therefore potentially still in situ

Sometime after 1806 John and the boys left Ranelagh Street, and moved to live at 40 Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, although there is no record of him being there on the rates returns for that period, the only confirmation exists in the form of him taking out insurance on the property, but it would appear from the document itself that at least part of it was let out to a baker. His daughter, Lavinia who was born in 1809 (see below),also confirmed Mount Street, as her place of birth, on the 1881 census.

The next reference to him occurs in 1814, so some six years later, in the will of his employer, John Craufurd*, of Errol, Perth and Kinross ,who described John as his valet.

Extract from John Craufurd’s will, confirming Daviniere’s status as valet within the household employees

Craufurd, who died in 1814, left John a couple of bequests upon his death, one of which was £100. Craufurd also provided a reference for Davinière’s son, Charles when he joined the Madras Army, so he clearly thought quite highly of the family.

The boys were clearly educated, as confirmed by a letter written by Charles’ tutor, as Mr James Carver, who had a private school, Belgrave House School in Pimlico, which first opened its doors back in July 1796 under the headmaster, Mr William Perks.

Morning Chronicle 21 July 1796

They would have been taught, English, Greek, Latin and French, along with subjects such as accounts, land surveying, mathematics and drawing. Basically, all skills they would need to get a job in the military, finance or to go to university.  

Belgrave House School, Pimlico. Birth/baptismal certificates in Cadet Papers. L-MIL-9-123

It appears that John didn’t remain single for very long, as he met and ultimately married his second wife, Jane Holland, who was some 14 years his junior.

The marriage took place in 1819 at St Martin in the Fields, but strangely this was not until some years after they had produced two children, Lavinia (1809-1888), who was born whilst they were living at 40 Mount Street, and Edward Henry (1812-1867).

Baptism for Lavinia and Edward in 1812 at St Georges, Hanover Square
Baptism for Lavinia and Edward on 19 April 1812 at St Georges, Hanover Square. City of Westminster Archives Centre; London, England; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: STG/PR/2/6

This time the marriage was simply witnessed by two ‘serial marriage witnesses’, so no aristocracy present at this occasion.

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: DL/T/093/025
London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: DL/T/093/025

It was to be shortly after the birth of Edward Henry that the couple moved again, this time to 31 Edgware Road where it appears they remained for several years, moving on to Portman Place around 1822.

London Land Tax Records. London, England: London Metropolitan Archives.

Rates returns indicate that he and Jane left there about 1828 and moved to John’s home town of Ducey in France.

Their daughter, Lavinia was to marry Louis Henri Wohlegmuth, a naturalised Frenchman in 1843 and confirmed her father’s name on the marriage register, but neither John nor Jane were present at the marriage, as the newspaper confirmed that they were in Ducey, where John was to remain until his death on 31st March 1847.

From La Manche Archives

Upon his death, he left his possessions to his wife Jane and named all four children – Charles, Guillame (William), Lavinia Amelia and Edward.

The lives of the Charles and Lavinia and to a lesser extent, William Thomas, are reasonably well documented. Certainly the boys were well-educated as a document dated 8th February 1811, relating to Charles confirms, but we know very little about Edward, except that he travelled between Le Havre and England on 24th August 1837.

The National Archives; London, England; Class: Ho 3; Piece: 5

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P89/CTC/064

It would seem highly likely that this was in order to be a witness at his half-brother, William Thomas’s marriage to Fanny Graham, which took place in September of that year and was clearly still alive when his father died. I have read online that Fanny Graham was a widow, so let’s just correct another mistake, as you can see here, she was a spinster.

As there is no sign of either John’s widow, Jane or Edward the most obvious conclusion is that they remained in France.  The trail has, for now, gone cold on that front, but at least this adds a little new information to the story of Dido Belle and John Davinière.

UPDATE – Further information about their life can be found by following this link .

If you’d like to listen to a podcast about Dido recorded for English Heritage click the highlighted link.

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.
Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany. Dido Elizabeth Belle. The portrait hangs at Scone Palace in Perthshire.

If you’d like to know more about Dido Elizabeth Belle follow these links:

Dido Elizabeth Belle’s half-sister, Elizabeth Lindsay

What became of Dido Elizabeth Belle’s mother, Maria Belle?

Dido Elizabeth Belle – an update

Dido Elizabeth Belle’s Descendants

Dido Elizabeth Belle – Ranelagh Street, Pimlico

The missing brother of Sir John Lindsay

Dido Elizabeth Belle portrait – BBC Fake or Fortune

Dido Elizabeth Belle – A new perspective on her portrait

The Eighteenth-Century Fashion for Turbans

An Eighteenth-Century game of ‘Degrees of Separation’

Is Dido Elizabeth Belle still buried at St George’s burial ground in Bayswater Road?

Where are Dido Elizabeth Belle’s sons buried?

Who lived in these houses on Hertford Street, Mayfair?

HMS Dido

Dido Elizabeth Belle: Questions and Answers

Lady Elizabeth Mary Murray

One of guides at Kenwood House, Ian Trackman, has very generously made available online, details of Lord Mansfield’s Household Accounts 1785-1793, which is freely available to download. The accounts do make for fascinating reading.

Ian has carried out some amazing work in transcribing Lord Mansfield’s extremely detailed will,  along with its 19 codicils. Again, this is freely available to download, by clicking the highlighted link above.

* History of Parliament Online (See John Craufurd)

John Craufurd’s will (1814) –  The National Archives; Kew, Surrey, England; Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1557

Featured Image

Piccadilly from Hyde Park Corner Turnpike, from Ackermann’s Repository, 1810

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.

Dido Elizabeth Belle – A new perspective on her portrait

In our previous blog about the turban that Dido Elizabeth Belle was wearing in the portrait of her with her cousin, the Honourable Lady Elizabeth Murray, we mentioned that the portrait was reputed to have been painted by Johann Zoffany and we promised to give you an update with some new information.

We now know more about the turban, courtesy of one of our lovely readers, Etienne Daly, who has been diligently researching Dido for some considerable years now and believes that the turban that Dido was wearing was not merely a fashion statement but was a gift to her from her father, Sir John Lindsay, so it was not part of a portrait ‘costume’ as had been assumed.

Sir John was invested as a Knight of the Bath in an extravagant ceremony in India on 11th March 1771.

A sketch of Sir John Lindsay KB, Prince Of Arcot (and father of Dido Elizabeth Belle), as he would have looked around the time of his investiture at the Chepauk Palace, Madras, India on 11th March 1771 when he was the King's ambassador to India. By Ian Sciacaluga.
A sketch of Sir John Lindsay KB, Prince Of Arcot (and father of Dido Elizabeth Belle), as he would have looked around the time of his investiture at the Chepauk Palace, Madras, India on 11th March 1771 when he was the King’s ambassador to India.

At that time he was presented with ‘a very rich dress of gold brocade, made after the European manner with the star upon the left breast,’ a ring with several titles engraved on it in Persian and a turban, all given by Nawab Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah.

Muhammad Ali Khan, Nawab of Arcot by Tilly Kettle, c.1772-1776. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Muhammad Ali Khan, Nawab of Arcot by Tilly Kettle, c.1772-1776. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

We think it seems a lovely gesture that she would wear it as a ‘nod’ to her father, in the only known portrait of her. 

Dido Elizabeth Belle
Dido Elizabeth Belle. The portrait hangs at Scone Palace in Perthshire.

If you look closely at the turban you will notice that it sparkles; it seems highly likely that it would have been studded with gold