The Merry Duchess

Overview

The story of Harriot Mellon is a unique, individual and perceptive insight into a vanished world of deprivation and privilege. Joan Perkin's book is the amazing story of a remarkable woman: Harriot Mellon, the poor child of strolling players in the late eighteenth century, who rose to become a star at Drury Lane in the heyday of Sarah Siddons and Dorothy Jordan, and the protegee and second wife of Thomas Coutts the royal banker. Annoyed by his three daughters, all married into the aristocracy, who treated her ...
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Overview

The story of Harriot Mellon is a unique, individual and perceptive insight into a vanished world of deprivation and privilege. Joan Perkin's book is the amazing story of a remarkable woman: Harriot Mellon, the poor child of strolling players in the late eighteenth century, who rose to become a star at Drury Lane in the heyday of Sarah Siddons and Dorothy Jordan, and the protegee and second wife of Thomas Coutts the royal banker. Annoyed by his three daughters, all married into the aristocracy, who treated her badly, he left her the Bank, which she doubled in value in fifteen years. A famous society hostess, charitable to the poor yet familiar with "Prinny", Prince Regent and later George IV, and pursued as the richest widow in Britain by his brothers the royal dukes and other suitors, she married, secondly, the young Duke of St. Albans, appropriately a descendant of Nell Gwyn and Charles II, and so became "the Merry Duchess". Friend of Sir Walter Scott and satirised by Benjamin Disraeli as "Mrs. Millions", she was savagely attacked by the yellow press and the scurrilous cartoonists of the day, but never ceased her charities to deserving dependents and members of the acting profession down on their luck. Finally, she left her huge fortune to her youngest step-granddaughter Angela, who became Baroness Burdett-Coutts, the greatest philanthropist of the nineteenth century. Thus "the Merry Duchess" became fairy godmother by proxy to the Victorian poor.

Joan Perkin is a women's historian, with well-known books on Women and Marriage in Nineteenth-Century England and on Victorian Women. A pioneer of the Welfare State, starting as an Inspector of National Insurance in 1948, she has had a varied career, in industrial relations in the rayon industry, as a magistrate, and a university teacher in a top-ten American university. As a latecomer to higher education, she used her experience to write an advice book for other mature students: It's Never Too Late: A practical guide to continuing education for women of all ages, which changed the lives of many women. She has been married for over fifty years to Harold Perkin, the pioneer social historian - see The Making of a Social Historian (Athena Press, 2002).

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844010158
  • Publisher: Legend Press Ltd
  • Publication date: 10/24/2002
  • Pages: 244
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.55 (d)

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