Angela Burdett-Coutts, Baroness Burdett-Coutts
2 of 19 portraits of Angela Burdett-Coutts, Baroness Burdett-Coutts
- Extended Catalogue Entry
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
Sitterback to top
- Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, Baroness Burdett-Coutts (1814-1906), Philanthropist; daughter of Sir Francis Burdett, Bt. Sitter in 19 portraits.
Artistback to top
- Sir William Charles Ross (1794-1860), Miniature painter. Artist associated with 97 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.
This portraitback to top
The daughter of the politician Sir Francis Burdett, Angela Burdett took the additional name of Coutts in 1837 when she inherited the share in Coutts Bank of her maternal grandfather, Thomas Coutts. Known as 'the richest heiress in all England', she took an active interest in the family banking business and worked keenly to improve the working conditions of women, children and animals. She was also concerned with practical ways of improving poor economies, and took a close interest in, among other projects, the Irish fishing industry and the cotton industry of South Nigeria. The friend of many distinguished figures in England, including the royal family and several Prime Ministers, she was raised to the peerage in 1871.
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
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1847back to top
Current affairsThe 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 scienceA 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.
- Portrait of the Day: Angela Burdett-Coutts
29 March, 12:30