Feb 062012

 Elizabeth, Lady Melbourne, introduced by our Regency Promenade author, Nancy Mayer.

Elizabeth,Lady Melbourne, with her son

Elizabeth, Lady Melbourne, with her son


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.

English: Lady Annabella Milbanke Byron

Lady Annabella Milbanke Byron

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 with the Duchess of Devonshire and Anne Damer in Witches Round the Cauldron by Daniel Gardner (1775)

Lady Melbourne with the Duchess of Devonshire and Anne Damer in Witches Round the Cauldron by Daniel Gardner (1775)



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.


Lord Melbourne

Lord Melbourne

Lady Melbourne painting by George Stubbs - National Gallery, London

Lady Melbourne painting by George Stubbs - National Gallery, London

  3 Responses to “Regency Promenade – Elizabeth, Lady Melbourne”

  1. Some folks may be interested to know that the Melbourne House in which Lady Melbourne died is not the same Melbourne House which she had her husband purchase for her. The original Melbourne House had been designed by Sir William Chambers, architect to King George III and was an elegant, if somewhat baroque structure. The Melbournes were great friends of Frederick, Duke of York, and he took a fancy to their home not long after they had moved in. He asked that they swap their house for his. Wishing to curry royal favor, they agreed and what had been York House became the new Melbourne House.

    The original Melbourne House did not remain long in the possession of the Prince of Wales’ favorite brother. An inveterate gambler, he eventually signed the house over to his banker, Thomas Coutts, in partial payment for his enormous debts. Coutts and a partner tried developing the house as a hotel for families who did not own a London townhouse. When that venture failed, they instead divided it up as apartments for single gentlemen, which was a great success. Renamed Albany, after one of the Duke of York’s lesser titles, the one-time Melbourne House was home to Matthew “Monk” Lewis, author of the Gothic novel from which he derived his nick-name. For a time, Albany was also where both Henry Angelo and Gentleman Jackson maintained premises, before they moved to Bond Street. But, perhaps a bit ironically for Lady Melbourne, Albany was also the London residence of Lord Byron, and it was there that Lady Caroline Lamb visited him in the guise of a boy and acted out her various scenes in an attempt to win him back. Byron lived in Albany until he gave up his London rooms upon his marriage to Miss Milbanke. Most of the neighbors were delighted to see him go, as among a small menagerie of animals in his rooms, he kept a macaw which would often squawk quite loudly.



  2. I adore that she arranged her own wedding

  3. […] Regency Promenade – Elizabeth, Lady Melbourne(main.thebeaumonde.com) […]

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