Friday, January 2, 2009

Tart of the Week: Isabella, Lady Hertford

It has been a while since we've talked about one of the endless amounts of women that the Prince of Wales became involved in. Lady Hertford's only claim to fame was her affair with the womanizing prince. Isabella was the eldest of five daughters by the 9th Viscount Irvine and his wife, therefore Isabella and all her sisters had the title of "Honourable." Interestingly, Isabella's maiden name was Ingram-Shepherd which was a combination of her two parent's last names. It was likely hyphenated due to inheriting a large amount of money.

It must have made sense for Isabella to marry someone else with a long hyphenated last name because at the age of sixteen, in 1776 she became the second wife of Francis Seymour-Conway, the 2nd Marquess of Hertford. Both families must have loved changing last names more than splitting heraldic arms because the happy couple then changed their last name to Ingram-Seymour-Conway in 1807 after receiving a large amount of money from Isabella's mother's death. Talk about going overboard! Francis must have been delighted with his young wife. She was reportedly tall and beautiful, and just a tad bit pudgy. She also was a big fan of the Tory party and very anti-Catholic...but would still hang out occasionally with Maria Fitzherbert. The couple quickly had an heir, but he remained their only child. As the years passed, the old Marquess began to notice the Prince of Wales' eye on his wife. Knowing George's history, Francis wanted to remove his wife from the possibility of involvement so he moved the whole family to Ireland, hoping the prince would forget about Isabella. Of course his attempt backfired.

It probably didn't help that the Ingram-Seymour-Conways liked throwing parties (because the Prince of Wales loved going to them). They even bought that the Duke of Manchester's former duck hunting lodge, built from 1776-1788. Its location and elegant facade was ideal for their London residence and the long galleries ideal for throwing rad parties. They renamed the house Hertford House and it still stands today but also goes by the name of The Wallace Collection, which holds one of the best collections of eighteenth century and Renaissance paintings. But I digress. By 1807 the Prince was a regular at Hertford House. It was around this time also that the Prince began becoming less involved in the Whigs and siding more with the Tories. Perhaps the Tory princess Isabella had something to do with it? I wouldn't be surprised if Isabella craftily wouldn't let George into her bed until he began sharing some of her political opinions.

Their affair was rather long; it lasted until 1819 (Isabella was 60!) when George found a new squeeze. Her husband died three years later. Strangely enough, Isabella's son was good friends with the prince. Meaning that the friendship and affair coincided at the same time. What a MILF!


  1. Just watched "The Duchess" and needed to immerse myself in some of her wonderful paintings. This is how I came across your blog. What fun!

  2. I'm glad you found us! Hopefully I'll to see you around more!

  3. I just love that pastel. Talk about white! Is it a Downman?

    Also, do you know the artist for the last painting? I hesitate to mention the Huntington again, but there is a Reynold's portrait of her that looks very similar.

    I also had no idea about the Wallace collection connection--another favorite place of mine. You're always full of great tidbits I never knew.

  4. Oh good I'm glad I can offer new bits of info! The last painting is a Hoppner and it reminds me of how I need a Hoppner book because he is just amazing! I'm not sure who did the pastel but I couldn't resist posting it because it's so beautiful, Dowman would be my best guess too.

  5. I don't think I've ever seen a Hoppner book. The hunt is on!
    Come to think of it, I need a Downman book too. He did a Sarah Siddons portrait I'm mad for.

  6. Lovely images, Heather. Are they from your own collection?

  7. Aren't they gorgeous? The first one is a Reynolds which I believe is in Liverpool. The other two I linked to directly from the pages I found them on.