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Harriot Beauclerk (née Mellon), Duchess of St Albans (1777?-1837), Actress and banker
Sitter in 3 portraits
As the illegitimate daughter of travelling actors, Harriot Mellon's beginnings were humble, and in her youth she too entered the theatre. Widely admired for her beauty, she attracted the attention of the wealthy banker Thomas Coutts. She became his mistress and when his wife died they married. This made Coutts's family furious. Despite criticism, they were happily married, and when Coutts died ten years later Harriot inherited his vast fortune and his partnership in the bank. Harriot married again in 1827, but on her death she left her fortune to Angela Burdett-Coutts, the youngest daughter of Thomas Coutts. With this money, Angela was to become one of the greatest philanthropists of the Victorian age.
by Sir William Beechey
oil on canvas, circa 1815
by Charles Turner, after Sir William Beechey
mezzotint, published 1806