Harriet Beauclerk

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Harriet Beauclerk], 1817 or 1818.

Harriet Beauclerk, Duchess of St Albans (alternate spelling: Harriot; née Mellon; 11 November 1777 – 6 August 1837) was a British banker and actress who eventually starred at Drury Lane. She was successively the wife of banker Thomas Coutts and then of William Beauclerk, 9th Duke of St Albans. She was widely celebrated for her beauty, and she was painted by George Romney and Sir Thomas Lawrence.[1]

First Marriage

When she was young, she appeared at the Duke Street Theatre, where she attracted the attention of an elderly wealthy banker, Thomas Coutts, founder of Coutts & Co, the royal bank. Following his wife's death in 1815, she married him. From his previous marriage, he had three daughters – Susan (wife of the 3rd Earl of Guilford), Frances (wife of the 1st Marquess of Bute), and Sophia (wife of Sir Francis Burdett).[2]

In 1822, after her husband's death, she became very wealthy, having been bequeathed his entire fortune, including his interest in the family bank. She purchased the lease on a country property four miles away at the Holly Lodge in Highgate, holding parties there and at her town house at 78 Stratton Street Piccadilly. She also spent time at her house in Brighton, St Alban's House, 131 Kings Road, on the corner of Regency Square.[3]

Second Marriage

In 1827, she married William Beauclerk, 9th Duke of St Albans, who was 23 years her junior. Sir Walter Scott wrote to her to congratulate her. Her reply is quoted in full in his journal for 30 June 1827. They were "old and true friends" and she wrote to him:[4]

What a strange eventful life has mine been, from a poor little player child, with just food and clothes to cover me, dependent on a very precarious profession, without talent or a friend in the world – first the wife of the best, the most perfect being that ever breathed ...and now the wife of a Duke! You must write my life... my true history written by the author of Waverley.[5]

On her death in 1837, her property and fortune went to her stepgranddaughter, selected as heir after careful scrutiny of the possible recipients, who as a condition of the inheritance adapted her name to Angela Burdett-Coutts.[6]

See Also

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