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Lady Hester Lucy Stanhope

Lady Hester Lucy Stanhope

Birth
Chevening, Sevenoaks District, Kent, England
Death 13 Jun 1839 (aged 63)
Lebanon
Burial Joun, Jabal Lubnan, Lebanon
Memorial ID 1202 · View Source
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English Adventuress and traveler, in an age when women were discouraged from doing both. Born in Chevening, England, the eldest child of Charles Stanhope, the 3rd Earl of Stanhope, by his first wife, Lady Hester Pitt, she was raised by her grandmother at Burton Pynsent. In August 1803, she became the head of the household of her uncle, William Pitt, a bachelor who needed a hostess in his position as British Prime Minister. With Lady Hester at the head of his house and assisting in welcoming guests, she became known for her stately beauty and lively conversation. She also became his private secretary. Upon his death in 1806, the King awarded her a pension of 1200 pounds a year, in gratitude for her uncle's service to the country. For a while she lived in London, then moved to Wales, and finally leaving England in February 1810 after the death of her brother, to go on a long sea voyage. With her was her physician and later biographer, Dr. Charles Meryon, and a young man named Michael Bruce, who became her lover. They traveled from Athens to Constantinople and then to proceeded to Cairo. Shipwrecked on Rhodes, they lost all of their possessions and had to purchase Turkish clothing. Stanhope refused to wear a veil, and dressed in Turkish men's clothing. When a British frigate took them to Cairo, she purchased additional male clothing, complete with velvet robe, embroidered trousers, jacket and saber. In this costume, she met the Pasha of Egypt who received her in awe. She then became the first Christian to travel to Palmyra. From Cairo she traveled on to the Middle East, meeting several sheiks in her male clothing. She refused to wear a veil, even in Damascus, a city with a reputation for strong Islamic enforcement of female coverings. When she visited Jerusalem, she was given a special tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, considered a great honor. She continued to travel, eventually settling down near Sidon, Lebanon, where she created her own Turkish household. Over the years, she gained an almost absolute authority over the surrounding districts, and in 1832, when Ibrahim Pasha was about to invade neighboring Syria, he first negotiated for her neutrality. As the years went by, she began to spend more that her pension would cover, and soon found herself deep in debt. When Dr. Meyron decided to return to England, she moved to Djoun, where she kept writing to important people, spending money she did not have, and receiving visitors. With a villa and some 30 servants that she could not pay, she slowly wasted away and died on June 23, 1839 at her villa in Djoun, Lebanon. When the British consul arrived to settle her estate, he found the servants had plundered the estate and that there was little left to settle. Several years later, Dr Meyron wrote three volumes each of "Memoirs of the Lady Hester Stanhope"(1845) and "Travels of Lady Hester Stanhope" (1846). These books presented a deep and rich picture of an extraordinary woman's life and character, and revealed many stories of Prime Minister Pitt and his colleagues in the years before his death.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 1202
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Lady Hester Lucy Stanhope (12 Mar 1776–13 Jun 1839), Find A Grave Memorial no. 1202, citing Dahr el Sitt (The Hill of the Lady), Joun, Jabal Lubnan, Lebanon ; Maintained by Find A Grave .