Grace Elliott

Grace Elliott

Portrait of Grace Elliot by Thomas Gainsborough, circa 1778 (in the Frick Collection)
Born 1754
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died 1823
Ville d'Avray
Nationality British
Known for mistress of the Louis Philip II, Duke of Orléans

Grace Dalrymple Elliott (1754–1823) was a Scottish socialite who was resident in Paris at the time of the French Revolution and an eyewitness to events. She was once mistress of the Duke of Orléans, who was cousin to King Louis XVI. She was arrested and held awaiting death by guillotine but released after the death of Robespierre. She wrote an account of her experiences, Ma Vie Sous La Révolution, published posthumously in 1859.

Early life

She was the youngest daughter of Hew Dalrymple, an Edinburgh advocate concerned in the great Douglas case, who was an LL.D. in 1771, and died in 1774. She was born about 1754.[1] Her mother, on being left by her husband, had rejoined her parents, in whose house Grace was born. She was educated in a French convent, was introduced by her father on her return into Edinburgh society, and her beauty made such an impression on John Elliott, an opulent physician, that he made her an offer of marriage, 1771. Though much her senior he was accepted. Elliott mixed in fashionable circles, and his young wife was not proof against their seductions. After repeated intrigues she eloped in 1774 with Lord Valentia, upon which Elliott obtained a divorce with £12,000 damages. Grace was then taken by her brother to a French convent, but seems to have been brought back almost immediately by Lord Cholmondeley. [2]

Life in England

She met Lord Cholmondeley at the Pantheon in 1776. They began a liaison that lasted three years.[3] Thomas Gainsborough painted her portrait in 1778, which is in the Frick Collection in New York City.[4] In 1782, she had a quiet and short intrigue with the Prince of Wales (afterwards George IV), and gave birth on 30 March 1782 to a daughter who used the name Georgina Seymour (1782–1813), but was baptised at St Marylebone as Georgiana Augusta Frederica Seymour.[2][5]

Grace declared that the Prince was the father of her child and The Morning Post said in January 1782 that he admitted responsibility. However, when the child, who was very dark, was first shown to the Prince he is said to have remarked, "To convince me that this is my girl they must first prove that black is white."

The Prince and many others regarded Lord Cholmondeley as the father, though the Prince's friends said that Charles William Wyndham (brother of Lord Egremont), whom she was thought to resemble, claimed paternity. Yet others thought she might have been fathered by George Selwyn. Lord Cholmondeley brought up the girl and, after her early death in 1813, looked after her only child.[6]

France, Louis-Philippe d'Orléans and imprisonment

Grace Elliot (1754?–1823). Portrait by Thomas Gainsborough, 1778. (In the Metropolitan Museum of Art)[7]

George, Prince of Wales, introduced her to the French Duke of Orleans in 1784. The couple started an affair and in 1786 Grace settled in Paris. She remained there throughout the revolution. The duc sided with the revolutionaries, took the name Philippe Égalité, voted for the execution of his cousin, the King and whipped up hatred against Louis's wife, Marie Antoinette. Grace supported the monarchy and became a devoted follower of Louis XVI and his family. His execution in 1793 devastated her. France was plunged into a reign of terror and paranoia gripped the people. Grace was imprisoned from December 1793 to 4 October 1794.[8]

Later life

Although many of her friends met their deaths including Madame du Barry, Grace did not. She narrowly avoided death and was released after the Reign of Terror came to an end. She had been confined in total to four different prisons by the republican government. In later years, rumour had it that she has an attachment with Napoleon Bonaparte, but had rejected his offer of marriage. She died a wealthy woman at Ville d'Avray, in present-day Hauts-de-Seine in May 1823, while lodger of the commune's mayor. [9]

She was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery.[10]



A dramatic portrayal of part of her life is contained in the 2001 film The Lady and the Duke. English actress Lucy Russell played Grace and Jean-Claude Dreyfus played the Duke of Orleans.




External links

Women in History

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