Lady Susan Vane-Tempest

Lady Susan Vane-Tempest

A carte-de-visite portrait of Lady Susan Vane-Tempest (1839-1875), who in 1864 became a mistress of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), and possibly gave birth his illegitimate child in 1871.

Born Lady Susan Charlotte Catherine Pelham-Clinton on 7 April 1839, she was the only daughter of Henry Pelham-Clinton, 5th Duke of Newcastle. In 1850 her mother – born Lady Susan Hamilton, daughter of the 10th Duke of Hamilton – created a society scandal when she ‘bolted’ to the Continent with her lover, Lord Horatio Walpole, and subsequently bore his illegitimate son, Horatio. A much-publicised divorce case soon followed.

On 23 April 1860, two weeks after her 21st birthday, Lady Susan married Lord Adolphus Vane-Tempest, son of the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry. Her notoriously unstable and alcoholic husband, whom Queen Victoria described as having ‘a natural tendency to madness,’ attacked his wife on at least one occasion. A son, Francis, was born in 1863 but Lord Adolphus died the following year when he burst a blood vessel while being physically restrained by four keepers. That same year his widow began a protracted affair with the Prince of Wales, allegedly giving birth to his illegitimate child in Ramsgate towards the end of 1871. Nothing is known of the child’s subsequent fate.

Lady Susan died, aged only 36, at Trouville on 6 September 1875. According to one report, the cause of death was rheumatic fever.

Her brother Lord Arthur Clinton was involved in the Boulton and Park (‘Fanny and Stella’) scandal of 1870-71. The lover of female impersonator Ernest Boulton, he almost certainly committed suicide rather than stand trial.

Photographed at the London branch of the great French photographer Disdéri.


Code: 126429
© Paul Frecker 2022