We are delighted to be asked to pay a return visit to Geri’s blog. For those who have not met us before we are Sarah and Jo and we host the blog ‘All Things Georgian’. We are also joint authors of An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, the definitive biography of the eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott.
Grace, young, tall and beautiful, made a ‘marriage-a-la-mode’ to a successful doctor in 1771, with disastrous consequences. Her husband, Dr John Eliot, was much older (and reputedly much shorter too), than his new wife and when Grace was discovered at a bagnio with the much younger and handsome Viscount Valentia a divorce swiftly followed, leaving Grace, still not legally an adult, to survive on her looks and her wits.
Following her divorce Grace Dalrymple Elliott (she chose to spell her surname differently from her husband, possibly in defiance to him) became a courtesan, notorious amongst the ranks of the Cyprian Corps. However, there is much more to her life; she was a daughter, a mother, a sister and an aunt, and all these roles made her the woman she ultimately became. She bravely endured hardships during the terrifying years of the French Revolution when she had failed to escape Paris in time, reputedly worked as a spy and later wrote an account of her adventures during those years.
In this post we’re going to take a brief look at one of her cousins, Charles Henry Mordaunt, the 5th Earl of Peterborough (and 3rd Earl of Monmouth) and an interesting young lady who made a brief appearance in our book. We should point out that although cousins, the two did not always get along.
Despite appearing as a witness in the Criminal Conversation case brought by Sir Richard Worsley against his wife to testify (for Lady Worsley) to her dissolute character, and then taking the ‘starring’ role in his own Criminal Conversation case a few years later following his debauchery with Lady Ann Foley in her shrubbery, the 5th Earl of Peterborough died unmarried in 1814 after a few years of ill-health. At his bedside when he died was a young lady who was to have an interesting future. She was Constance (or Constantia) Louisa Bouchier Smith, the daughter of the earl’s boon companion since his schooldays, the equally dissolute (and often impecunious) Joseph Bouchier Smith.
Bouchier Smith had abandoned his wife in favour of his mistress named Emelie (information on her is scant, to say the least) and Constance Louisa was the product of that union. Emelie passed as the legitimate Mrs Bouchier Smith to the world, even though Joseph’s legitimate wife was still alive.
Following the death, late in 1822, of her ‘husband’ (at Croome, the house of the Earl of Coventry where he was attacked with spasms in his chest whilst sealing a letter ‘which in a few moments terminated his existence’) Emilie, the supposed wife but now faux widow of Joseph Bouchier Smith, received a letter from Count Sampigny d’Issoncourt. And this letter was delivered by no less a person than the grandson of the Jacobite Young Pretender. Charles Edward Stuart, Count Roehenstart, was the illegitimate son of Charlotte Stuart, Duchess of Albany (1753-1789 – the illegitimate daughter of Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender (1720-1788)) and the Archbishop of Cambrai, Prince Ferdinand of Rohan). In 1783 the Young Pretender, young no longer but old and ill, had legitimated Charlotte, his only child and named her as his heir.
Charlotte already had two daughters with Prince Ferdinand and her son, named for her father, was born the following year in 1784 but her father knew nothing of the existence of his three grandchildren. The young Count Roehenstart, after trying the army as a career and losing money through bad investments, travelled to America for some time before visiting England and Scotland in 1816. He married the daughter of an Italian nobleman but in 1821 she died at the age of thirty in London (and is buried in London at St. Pancras, co-incidentally, the same church in which Grace Dalrymple had made her fateful marriage to Dr John Eliot in 1771). Sampigny d’Issoncourt referred to Emilie in a letter he wrote to Charles Edward Stuart, dated the 15th September, 1823:
‘Mrs Bouchier Smith is the lady to whom you had the kindness to bring a letter for me last year, she has become a widow and thinks to settle in France’.
This must have led to an introduction to Emelie’s daughter, Constance Louisa Bouchier Smith for, on 13th December 1826, she married Charles Edward Stuart, the Jacobite claimant to the British throne, at St Pancras, not the same church in which his first wife had been buried five years earlier but the new church, consecrated in 1822. No children were born to the couple and Constance Louisa died in Paris in 1853.
- The Gentleman’s Magazine, 29th December 1822.
- The Stuarts’ Last Secret by Peter Pininski, 2002.
To learn more about Joanne Major and Sarah Murden’s fabulous website, you can also visit them by clicking here.
If you tweet and want to connect, Joanne is @joannemajor3 and Sarah is @sarahmurden.
For more on Grace, and on her wider family including her cousin the 5th Earl of Peterborough, see An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott. It is available at Pen and Sword and all good bookshops.
Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner in France during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris.
Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage-a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits.
The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the history of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men.
Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time.
This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.