Elizabeth, Lady Melbourne, introduced by our Regency Promenade author, Nancy Mayer.
Lady Melbourne (née Milbanke: 1752-1818) was one of the most famous Regency Personages.
Her two claims to fame are her son William, husband of Lady Caroline Lamb, and her friendship with Lord Byron, the poet. She was also known for her political influence and her lovers, including George, Prince of Wales.
She was the mother of several children by three different fathers and only the eldest, Peniston, was thought to have been fathered by Lord Melbourne.
Lady Melbourne’s History
Born – 1751 or 52 (The calendar changed and some dates were Old Style, and others New)
Died – 6th April, 1818, at Melbourne House of rheumatism.
Elizabeth’s father was a baronet who died before she was married. Her brother was Ralph Milbanke who was the father of Anne Isabel Milbanke who married Lord Byron.
In 1769, she married Sir Peniston Lamb, a 2nd baronet and very rich. It is claimed that she chose him and arranged her own marriage. He was also a Member of Parliament. Elizabeth had him buy Melbourne House.
In 1770, a son, also named Peniston, was born. In that year, Sir Peniston was raised to the peerage of Ireland as Lord Melbourne. Because it was an Irish dignity he could still be a MP.
We don’t know much about Peniston except that he did not appear to object to his wife’s liaisons with other men. Rumor has it that only the first born child was his. That son died in 1805.
In 1779, the next child known about, William, was born. Frederick in 1782, George in 1784, and Emily in 1787. Rumor also had it that George was the son of the Prince of Wales
In 1781, Peniston was raised to a viscount in the Peerage of Ireland. It wasn’t until 1815 that he was raised to the peerage of the UK as Lord Baltimore.
Gossip attributes this rise more to his wife’s activities than his own. Elizabeth was considered one of the leaders of Society in her day. Her day was waning in 1812 when she met Byron.
Lady Melbourne has been accused of helping several people to disastrous marriages.
Annabella Milbanke was Lady Melbourne’s niece and Lady Caroline her son’s William‘s wife.
She knew as much as anyone did about Byron’s affaire with Lady Caroline but does not seem to have remonstrated with him about it. She did urge him to marry and settle down and even recommended her niece, Miss Milbanke.
A book of her correspondence with Lord Byron has been published as Byron’s Corbeau Blanc by Jonathan David Gross. The book is quite good though we still do not know much about Elizabeth at the end. I do not agree with all the interpretations Gross makes about the contents of some of the letters.
Lady Melbourne, The Duchess of Devonshire, and Lady Bessborough were three of the most influential ladies in society before 1806. Lady Bessborough and the Duchess were sisters who didn’t much like Lady Melbourne. Lady Bessborough opposed the marriage of her daughter Lady Caroline to Lady Melbourne’s son, William.
Only Emily, who married Lord Cowper, had children who survived to adulthood so the Melbourne title became extinct on the death of Frederick.