24 January 2015

Today's Princess: Grace Dalrymple Elliott

Some royal mistresses have one lover. Some have many. Such are the sordid affairs of a Scottish lass called Grace Dalrymple Elliott. Born in 1754 to a middle-class broken home--her father had already left her mother before she was born--Grace was placed in a French convent school, but she returned to Scotland full of charms. Tall for her time, lively and beautiful, she attracted a marriage proposal from a much older, social-climbing doctor. Their marriage gave her access to a higher society than she would otherwise have encountered. With the couple living essentially separate lives, Grace did not follow the rules of society for young women of the day. Her affair with the Viscount Valentia caused a scandal and her husband, despite his many affairs, divorced her. Grace was about 22.

She then started the longest relationship of her life, taking up with the unmarried Marquess of Cholmondeley. Neither was faithful to each other and they did take breaks but they remained in touch with each other until her death. If Grace had hoped to marry him, she was out of luck. However, their relationship gave her access to even higher circles, including French and English princes. Among her many lovers, she could count the Prince of Wales (future George IV), the Comte d'Artois and the Duke of Orleans (better remembered as Philippe Egalite).

Her brief affair with the Prince of Wales may have resulted in a pregnancy. She certainly named her daughter Georgina and boldly listed the Prince on the birth record. The Prince did not acknowledge or deny the child, and he paid Grace an annuity for many years. However, there were several possible candidates for the daddy, including Cholmondeley, who actually took responsibility for raising Georgina, and later Georgina's daughter, too.

Grace spent much of her life moving back and forth between France and England. She was in France, as the mistress of Orleans, during the Revolution. As such, she was very close to the center of things. She was likely an English spy. According to her own not-necessarily-accurate memoirs, she carried letters and messages for Queen Marie Antoinette. She was certainly arrested several times, and was only spared the guillotine because the Reign of Terror finally came to an end.

She lived the last years of her life in France, dying there in 1823.

For more about Grace:
Grace Dalrymple Elliott on Versailles and More
Grace Dalrymple Elliott: A very high flyer indeed! on English Historical Fiction Authors

Books by Grace:

Books about Grace:

Films about Grace:


  1. This is great!. You sparked an interest in Ms. Dalrymple in me and so I ordered the book "My Lady Scandalous"-- can't wait to read it. Thanks as always for your wonderful blog. Make it a great day.

  2. That's wonderful! Thank you for letting me know!!!

  3. My book came today and I was looking through it I came across a sketch of Grace Elliott along with Mary Robinson (Perdita). I have read "Perdita" the book and really enjoyed it. All the ladies from that era, the Duchess of Devonshire, her sister , Caroline Lamb etc. are subjects that I am quite familiar with as I have read books about their lives. I mentioned this as a segue into letting you know that as I was looking at purchasing "My Lady Scandalous" I came across "Elizabeth and Georgiana" by Caroline Chapman & Jane Dormer, a book about the relationship between Georgiana the Duke and Elizabeth also known as "Bess" which, I also purchased.

    Make it a great day.

  4. That's fantastic!! These are indeed fascinating women! Thank you for sharing your marvelous finds!

  5. We were interested to see you mention Grace and thought you might like to know that after years of research our book 'An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott is now available. The book is the definitive biography of Grace's life with much new information about Grace and her family. It is available from Pen & Sword Books and all good book sellers. Our blog also contains additional posts about Grace too, as well as 'anything and everything' to do with the Georgian era.