Friday, July 3, 2009

Tart of the Week: Hester Santlow

Hester Santlow exuded so much class during her lifetime that she just barely meets my qualifications as a tart. She is a fascinating woman just the same, and spent years wowing audiences with her skills in dance at a time when most ballerinas came out of Italy or France.

Like many of our tarts born out of the aristocracy, I cannot tell you much of Hester's early beginnings. She was born around 1690. By her early teens she was on stage dancing and by 1706 she had made it to the big time as a dancer on Drury Lane. Hester's rise to the top was based purely on talent and not other naughty means. The lady had some fancy footwork! Of course, it was more difficult to see her skill with her feet due to the dress length, but that is where those ballerina leaps and twirls may have come in.

Those leaps and twirls attracted many fans an admirers. One of Hester's first intimate admirers was John, Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough who made her his one and only mistresses (for the time being, anyway). The next in line of intimate admirers was James Craggs the Younger, who was much closer in age to Hester, and much better looking, me-ow! Don't think this was just a quick fling either, James cared very much for Miss Santlow. One night, while at the theatre, Hester was enjoying herself in her private box when a gentleman thought it a good time to join her in order to for some intimate conversation. Well, after listening to his idle chatter for long enough, Hester classily informed her suitor that she would much rather listen to what was on stage than him, thankyouverymuch. The man, apparently not used to rejection, began to berate her in ways no lady should ever hear. He didn't cease either, until Hester gave him the look-of-death (I'm good at that too!), and only then did he retreat to his seat. However, at her next performance, the man made sure he was there to heckle her in the audience and caused a huge disruption. Insulted over the dishonor done to his lady-fair, James demanded satisfaction and a duel was fought in Hyde Park. Hester was a woman worth fighting for! A child, Harriot, was another result of the relationship before the two lovebirds parted ways.

Hester not only danced but turned into a celebrated actress on Drury Lane. She eventually settled down with manager, Barton Booth and the two married in 1719. The stage was her life and she continued on it up through old age. She lived to see her daughter, Harriot marry into aristocracy and prosper well. Hester died peacefully in 1773 after many successful years on stage.


  1. she sounds like she knew what she wanted...nobody mess with this one. Good for her! Something very classy about her too. Thanks:)

  2. Hey, she had a lot of class! By the way, what was the result of the duel?

  3. What an unusual portrait and a tart with substance.

    Besides, like Juli*A*rtemise, wanting to know how the duel ended, I am also curious as to when she was the mistress of Marlborough, I sure hope it was before Sarah or that she never knew, because that could have been, uh, interesting.

    And that James is a Hunk Alert, to be sure. Hotcha!

    (To veer off topic yet again, I think it's time for a new Churchill miniseries. The one from the 70's is so from the 70's.)

  4. I hate to be a smarty pants, but you've got a few errors here (the late 17th century is my era, albeit in Massachusetts, so I guess I feel like I have to stick my nose in where I wasn't asked). First of all, 1690 was not the time of the reign of Queen Anne (if you're talking about England, anyway). William and Mary were the reigning monarchs at the time. Secondly, she wasn't Marlborough's only mistress--he had fathered an illegitimate child with one of Charles II's mistresses way back in the day (1660s; he wasn't married yet).

    To answer your question, Polonaise, this would be at the same time as Sarah, as Marlborough had married Sarah in the 1670s. But Sarah might've known; in her letters I was reading she mentioned Marlborough's attentions to another woman (not Hester) and pretended she didn't care.

    But anyway, she sounds classy for a dancer! And what an unusual dress!

  5. Thanks, Eliza. I was wondering about Sarah. She was generally not on the meek side, as her children would have attested. Those who were still on terms with her, that is. Hope you're all settled in.

  6. Well, let's just say that James was more of a lover than a fighter. He ended up begging for his life. At least his heart was in it!

    Woops thanks for the catch, Eliza! As for the mistress comment, I meant at the time she was the only mistress. Sorry for the confusion!