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Thursday, 19 October 2017

The notorious Lady Craven, Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Bayreuth

Lady Craven by Romney from Romney by R Davies (1914)
Lady Craven by Romney
from Romney by R Davies (1914)
Profile

Elizabeth, Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Bayreuth, previous married name Lady Craven (17 December 1750 – buried 13 January 1828), was a playwright and author, notorious for her scandalous affairs during her first marriage to Lord Craven.

Early years

Elizabeth Berkeley was born on 17 December 1750, the youngest daughter of Augustus Berkeley, 4th Earl of Berkeley, and his wife, Elizabeth Drax of Charlborough in Dorset.

The infamous Lady Craven

William Craven, 6th Baron Craven, from   The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's   memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
William Craven, 6th Baron Craven, from 
The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's
memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
On 10 May 1767, at the age of 16, Elizabeth married William Craven (1738-91), a man some twelve years her senior. Two years later he became the 6th Baron Craven on the death of his uncle. They had seven children: Elizabeth (1768); Maria (1769) who married William, 2nd Earl of Sefton; William, 1st Earl of Craven (1770); Georgiana; Arabella; Henry Augustus Berkeley (1776); and Keppel Richard (1779).

The marriage, however, was not a success. Both Elizabeth and her husband indulged in affairs, notably Elizabeth’s scandalous liaison with the French ambassador, the Count of Guines, in 1773, which even made it into the pages of the Morning Chronicle.

The Count, afterwards the Duke, of Guines, from   The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's   memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
The Count, afterwards the Duke, of Guines, from 
The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's
memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
Elizabeth became friends with Horace Walpole, corresponding with him and visiting his home at Strawberry Hill. Some of her early work was published on the Strawberry Hill Press. During this period, she wrote a satire on German snobbery and several plays, including The Miniature Picture, which was put on at Drury Lane in 1780/1.

Horace Walpole  from The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's   memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
Horace Walpole
from The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's
memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
Whilst Lord Craven tolerated Elizabeth’s behaviour, she was still received in society, but in 1783, Lord Craven had had enough. He arranged a separation, giving Elizabeth a settlement of £1,500 a year.

Travel and intrigues

Lady Craven, from   The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's   memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
Lady Craven and her son,
from The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's
memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
Taking her youngest son Keppel with her, Elizabeth went to live near Versailles in France where she wrote plays for the court theatre. She became romantically involved with Henry Vernon, the great nephew of Admiral Edward Vernon, and over the next few years, she travelled extensively in Europe, in France, Italy, Austria, Poland, Bulgaria, Russia, Greece and Turkey. Whilst on her travels, she wrote to Christian Frederick Charles Alexander, the Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Bayreuth, whom she had met in France. The Margrave was part of the Prussian royal family with a sickly wife back at home.

At the suggestion of Horace Walpole, Elizabeth published the story of her travels, A Journey through the Crimea to Constantinople (1789), her most popular work.

Lady Craven and the Margrave of Anspach  from The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's   memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
Lady Craven and the Margrave of Anspach
from The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's
memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
 The Margrave of Ansbach

In 1787, Elizabeth visited her long-time correspondent, the Margrave of Ansbach, and successfully displaced his mistress in his affections. Together they travelled to Berlin to arrange the sale of the Margrave’s principality to the King of Prussia for a very handsome sum. The Margrave’s ailing wife died in early 1791, and Lord Craven followed suit in September. Less than a month later, on 13 October 1791, Elizabeth married the Margrave in Lisbon with great style.

The Margrave of Anspach from The Beautiful   Lady Craven, Lady Craven's memoirs   edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
The Margrave of Anspach from The Beautiful
 Lady Craven, Lady Craven's memoirs
 edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
Brandenburg House

Elizabeth and the Margrave travelled to England and bought a house in Fulham overlooking the Thames which they called Brandenburg House. If Elizabeth had hoped that her wealth and position would see her past indiscretions forgotten, she was to be disappointed.

The Bon Ton in March 1792 said:
The Margravine of Anspach is not visited by any of the leading Ladies of Fashion, although she had not been wanting in sending round her cards of invitation, and calling at their houses. At a ball given at her house a few nights since, to which there was a general invitation, only thirty people of both sexes were present.1
It must have been an even greater blow to Elizabeth that she was not received at court. George III disapproved of her marriage, thinking it unequal – the Margrave was a member of the Prussian royal family and Elizabeth was only the daughter of an earl. The King refused to recognise the title of Princess Berkeley that the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II had bestowed on her.

Despite these setbacks, Elizabeth entertained lavishly at Brandenburg House and frequently put on plays in the little theatre near the house.

Brandenburg House from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Brandenburg House from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Benham Park

Around 1799, the Margrave bought Benham Park, near Newbury in Berkshire, the country seat of the Cravens. The Margrave took a keen interest in horseracing and bred horses at Benham.

The Margrave died quite suddenly on 5 January 1806 leaving his wife a fortune of around £150,000. Elizabeth erected a huge memorial to him near Benham, on the Bath Road.

The widowed Margravine continued to divide her time between Benham Park and Brandenburg House with occasional trips to Europe.

The Persian ambassador

Mirza Abul Hassan Khan by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1810)  in Fogg Art Museum  Photo by Daderot CCO via Wikimedia Commons
Mirza Abul Hassan Khan by Sir Thomas
Lawrence (1810) in Fogg Art Museum
Photo by Daderot CCO via Wikimedia Commons
Elizabeth entertained the Persian ambassador, Mirza Abul Hassan, several times during his diplomatic visit to England in 1809-10. He first visited Brandenburg House in March 1810. In his journal, he described it as ‘a heavenly house overlooking the Thames’, and wrote of a room full of Chinese porcelain and another full of musical instruments, all of which, he was told, Elizabeth could play. He wrote of Elizabeth that: ‘In her youth she was incomparable in beauty, grace and charm; even now, in old age, her face bears the traces of youthful beauty.’2

The ambassador was back at Brandenburg House on 6 April 1810, during the London riots over Sir Francis Burdett’s arrest. He noted that two of the Margravine’s guests, Lord Keith and his daughter Margaret Mercer Elphinstone, arrived covered with mud, because the rioters had pelted them with stones for refusing to remove their hats.

On 16 May, he was invited to experience the Brandenburg House Theatricals:
Brandenburgh House Theatre was opened yesterday for the first time since the death of the Margrave. Miss Jane Cramer’s performance was much admired. The Persian Ambassador was in the fashionable circle, and the Duke of Kent’s Band attended.3
Queen Caroline and the end of Brandenburg House

In June 1820, Caroline, Princess of Wales, the estranged wife of George IV, returned to England to claim her position as Queen Consort of England. Elizabeth lent Brandenburg House to Queen Caroline, and it was here that Caroline died on 7 August 1821, having failed in her attempt to be crowned Queen. The following February, Elizabeth commissioned the sale of furniture, china and books at Brandenburg House, and in May, the fabric of the building was sold off, including staircases, chimney pieces, doors, windows, and the scenery and machinery of the theatre.

Villa Craven

Elizabeth was living in Villa Craven, her house in Naples, when she wrote her colourful memoirs which were published in 1826. She died two years later and was buried in the British cemetery at Naples on 13 January 1828.

The tomb of the Margravine of Anspach, Naples,   from The Beautiful  Lady Craven, Lady Craven's   memoirs ed by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
The tomb of the Margravine of Anspach, Naples,
from The Beautiful  Lady Craven, Lady Craven's
 memoirs ed by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)

Notes
(1) From Craven, Elizabeth Craven, Baroness, The beautiful Lady Craven edited by AM Broadley and Lewis Melville (1914). Ansbach was sometimes spelt Anspach as in this article.
(2) From Hassan Khan, Mirza Abul, A Persian at the Court of King George 1809-10, edited by Margaret Morris Cloake (1988).
(3) From Craven, Elizabeth Craven, Baroness, The beautiful Lady Craven edited by AM Broadley and Lewis Melville (1914). Brandenburg was sometimes spelt Brandenburgh as in this book.

Sources used include:
Davies, Randall, Romney (1914)
Courthope, William, editor, Debrett's Complete Peerage of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1838)
Craven, Elizabeth Craven, Baroness, later Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Bayreuth, The Beautiful Lady Craven edited by AM Broadley and Lewis Melville (1914)
Hassan Khan, Mirza Abul, A Persian at the Court of King George 1809-10, edited by Margaret Morris Cloake (1988)
Turner, Katherine, Elizabeth, Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Byreuth (other married name Elizabeth Craven, Lady Craven) (1750-1828) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edition May 2010; accessed 9 June 2017)
Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878, London) Vol 6

LBHF Libraries blog: The end of Brandenburg House

2 comments:

  1. Great post! I love the bit about the Persian ambassador.
    For more details about Craven's life and remarkable writings see Elizabeth Craven: Writer, Feminist and European, (Vernon Press. 2017)

    https://vernonpress.com/title?id=334

    ReplyDelete