'The Ladies of Llangollen' (Sarah Ponsonby; Lady (Charlotte) Eleanor Butler)

'The Ladies of Llangollen' (Sarah Ponsonby; Lady (Charlotte) Eleanor Butler), by Richard James Lane, after  Lady Mary Leighton (née Parker), 1830s-1840s - NPG D7815 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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'The Ladies of Llangollen' (Sarah Ponsonby; Lady (Charlotte) Eleanor Butler)

by Richard James Lane, after Lady Mary Leighton (née Parker)
lithograph, 1830s-1840s
15 1/4 in. x 11 in. (387 mm x 278 mm) paper size
Given by Hugh Hale Bellot, 1944
Reference Collection
NPG D7815

Sittersback to top

Artistsback to top

  • Richard James Lane (1800-1872), Sculptor and lithographer. Artist associated with 1224 portraits, Sitter in 6 portraits.
  • Lady Mary Leighton (née Parker) (1810-1864), Visual artist; Wife of Sir Baldwin Leighton, 7th Bt. Artist associated with 4 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Both Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby were from Anglo-Irish, land-owning families. They first decided to elope and live together in 1778 but were overtaken at Waterford and prevented. Later that year their families consented and they moved to Wales to settle at Plas Newydd in Llangollen where they remained for nearly fifty years. Highly eccentric, they dressed in riding habits and wore their hair cropped, giving them a distinctive masculine appearance. They were seen as a model of perfect friendship, and their story appealed to the romantic sensibilities of the period. Poems were written about them and their motives in choosing this unusual way of life were discussed in fashionable correspondence. They were visited by many national and literary figures of the day, including the Duke of Wellington, William Wordsworth, Sir Walter Scott, Edmund Burke and Josiah Wedgwood.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG D14048: 'The Ladies of Llangollen' (Sarah Ponsonby; Lady (Charlotte) Eleanor Butler) (from same stone)
  • NPG D21884: 'The Ladies of Llangollen' (Sarah Ponsonby; Lady (Charlotte) Eleanor Butler) (from same stone)

Events of 1830back to top

Current affairs

George IV dies at Windsor on 26 June; William IV succeeds to the throne.
Duke of Wellington resigns as Prime Minister to be succeeded by Earl Grey.
'Captain Swing' disturbances among agricultural districts in southern England. Taking their name from a mythical leader, hundreds of labourers break the threshing machines that threaten their winter employment.

Art and science

Liverpool and Manchester Railway opens; MP William Huskisson is run down by a train and killed at the inaugural ceremony.
William Cobbett publishes Rural Rides; a nostalgic tribute to the English countryside which expresses dismay at the sweeping changes taking place.


July Revolution in France overthrows the Bourbon dynasty. Charles X goes into exile in England and Louis Philippe, Duc d'Orleans is proclaimed King by the Chamber of Deputies who fear European opposition to the declaration of a second Republic.

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