Angela Burdett-Coutts, Baroness Burdett-Coutts

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Angela Burdett-Coutts, Baroness Burdett-Coutts

by Sir William Charles Ross
watercolour on ivory, circa 1847
16 1/2 in. x 11 1/2 in. (419 mm x 292 mm)
Transferred from Tate Gallery, 1957
Primary Collection
NPG 2057

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Sir William Charles Ross (1794-1860), Miniature painter. Artist or producer associated with 97 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG 2056: Sir Francis Burdett, 5th Bt (companion portrait)
  • NPG 2494: Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork ()

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Cox, Paul, Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions, 2015 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12 March - 7 June 2015), p. 47 Read entry

    Another relationship that sheds light on Wellington's character in his later years was his friendship with the heiress Angela Burdett-Coutts. Daughter of the radical politician Sir Francis Burdett and granddaughter of the banker Thomas Coutts, Angela inherited Coutts's banking fortune on the death of his second wife in 1837, becoming the richest heiress in England. This background of radical politics and great wealth inspired in Burdett-Coutts a spririt of philanthropy and she sought to use her fortune for charitable purposes. After the death of both her parents in 1844, she and Wellington became close friends - she lived in Piccadilly, not far from Apsley House - and he advised her on both the management and the disbursement of her wealth.

    Surviving letters confirm that the relationship was an extremely close and loving one and Burdett-Coutts, in a highly unconventional move, proposed marraige to Wellington in 1847 when she was thirty-two and he seventy-seven. He refused her gently, stressing the difficulties of the great age gap, and they were to remain intimate friends until his death in 1852. Indeed, after that, his family treated her almost as his widow. She certainly attended the funeral alongside other members of the family and was the only woman to whom Wellington's son gave a death mask.

  • Lucinda Hawksley, Charles Dickens and his Circle, 2016, p. 77
  • Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 174
  • Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 177
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 88
  • Walker, Richard, Miniatures: 300 Years of the English Miniature, 1998, p. 11

Events of 1847back to top

Current affairs

The 10 Hours Factory Act passed, regulating working hours for women and children under the age of eighteen to a maximum of ten hours a day.
The Communist League is founded in London, and drew up a set of rules and aims, including overthrowing the bourgeoisie and empowering the Proleteriat, and ending class division, forming the basis of Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto (1848).}
Death and emigration resulting from starvation, plague and disease during worst year of the Great Famine in Ireland, known as Black 47.

Art and science

A good year for novels: Emily Bronte's passionate, rebellious and gothic Wuthering Heightsis published, followed shortly by her sister Charlotte's 'Jane Eyre, a story of a governess's struggle for liberty from social and gender constrictions. Drawing on a similar vein of revolution and rebellious women, William Thackeray's satirical novel Vanity Fair is serialised.


The Don Pacifico affair sparks an international incident, when the Jewish trader's business was burned in an anti-semitic attack in Athens. When the Greek government refused to compensate him, Gibraltar-born Pacifico appealed to the British government. Foreign Minister Palmerston sent a squadron into the Aegean in 1850 to seize goods of the equivalent value, leading to strained relations with Turkey and Russia, and heated debates in Parliament.

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