“Rousseau says: If we assume man has been corrupted by an artificial civilization, what is the natural state? The state of nature from which he has been removed? Imagine wandering up dan down the forest without industry, without speech, and without home.”
Marie Antoinette flattered herself that the Comtesse Jules and the
Princesse de Lamballe would be her especial friends, and that she should
possess a society formed according to her own taste. “I will receive
them in my closet, or at Trianon,” said she; “I will enjoy the comforts
of private life, which exist not for us, unless we have the good sense
to secure them for ourselves.” The happiness the Queen thought to secure
was destined to turn to vexation. All those courtiers who were not
admitted to this intimacy became so many jealous and vindictive enemies.
[Marie Antoinette] often sees in her cabinets the princesse de Lamballe,
née princesse de Carignan; she is sweet, pleasant, no intriguer, and
quite without drawbacks. For some time already, the Queen has felt real
friendship for this young Princess…
–Ambassador Mercy to Marie Antoinette, 7 June 1774 [translation: Olivier Bernier]
Mistress of: King George IV of the United Kingdom and Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, among others . Tenure: 1781 – 1782 (George) and c. 1785 – 1789 (Louis). Royal Bastards: One (Disputed). Fall From Power: He passed her on (George) and the French Revolution began (Louis).
Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s extraordinary life began about 1754, probably in Edinburgh, Scotland. She was the youngest daughter of Hew Dalrymple and an unnamed mother. Her parents separated either shortly before or after her birth, though other sources say Hew abandoned them. Grace was educated in a French convent until she was about sixteen, at which point she went to England and was reacquainted with her father.
Even at this young age, Grace was said to have been strikingly beautiful. She caught the attention of Sir John Eliot, 1st Baronet, and a Scottish physician. Perhaps because her father was soon to be relocated to the Caribbean, a hasty marriage was arranged and on October 19th, 1771 the seventeen-year-old Grace married the thirty-five-year-old John. Grace was now part of high society, though the couple soon drifted apart. In 1774, Grace started an affair with Lord Valentia. The scandal went public when John sued Valentia for criminal conversation (adultery) and was awarded £12,000 in “damages”. They divorced soon after, but Grace’s reputation was ruined. She left England and briefly returned to a French convent. Apparently the life of a nun just didn’t suit Grace and she returned to England with Lord Cholmondeley, whom she began a relationship with in 1776. She changed the spelling of her surname from Eliot to Elliott to rid herself of her former husband.
Following the end of her affair with Cholmondeley, Grace became acquainted with the Prince of Wales, the future George IV. The story goes that George saw a portrait of Grace, immediately became enamored, and requested to see her. The affair was brief but Grace fell pregnant. Her daughter was born on March 30th, 1782 and used the name Georgina Seymour. Grace declared that the Prince of Wales was the father, which George apparently admitted to in private, though he changed his mind after seeing the child, who was apparently quite dark, declaring that “to convince me that this is my girl they must first prove that black is white.” Grace’s old flame Lord Cholmondeley brought up the child as his ward, which made the Prince and several others regard him as the natural father; other possible candidates include Charles William Wyndham, a politician, and George Selwyn, a member of parliament.
In 1784, George introduced Grace to Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, a well-known womanizer with several illegitimate children. This didn’t deter Grace one bit and by 1786 she had a permanent residence in Paris, becoming one of his recognized mistresses. He also granted her a home on the Rue Miromesnil and property in Meudon. Grace carried on other affairs during this time, her conquests including the Duke de Fitz-James and the Prince of Conde.
Much about Grace’s life is known through her memoirs, though they contain several inconsistencies. Her account is one of the best in the English language; she witnessed the September Massacres and the body of the Princess de Lamballe being carried through the streets. It is now believed she acted as a spy between George in England and Louis in France, using letters sent to her daughter. Grace risked her life many times to assist and hide aristocrats being pursued by the Revolutionary government; despite her home being frequently searched (her Royalist sympathies were well known). On one occasion, which followed the Assault on the Tuileries Palace, Grace physically carried the injured Marquis de Champcenetz to her home, hiding him between the mattresses on her bed while feigning illness. She also arranged for false travel documents to be made for those who wished to escape.
In early 1793, Grace was arrested and imprisoned, spending the rest of The Terror being bounced between various prisons. She wrote about the horrific conditions she saw, including illness and violent coercion. Though many of her friends perished (including her former lover, Louis), Grace avoided death and was released. She died a wealthy woman following a prolonged illness in Ville d’Avray in Paris and is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery.
” Portrait of Grace Dalrymple Elliott” by Thomas Gainsborough, 1782. (image).
Manning, Jo. My lady Scandalous: The Amazing Life and Outrageous Times of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Royal Courtesan. Simon & Schuster (2005). ISBN 9780743262620.
Major, Joanne. An infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott. Pen & Sword History (2016). ISBN 1473844835.
…they had raised the victim’s head so that it could not escape her
sight; it was that of the Princesse de Lamballe. Though bloody, it was
not disfigured; her blond hair, still curling, floated around the pike.
–the journal of Jean-Baptiste Cléry
[image: my scan/collection]