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Elizabeth Craven and Grace Dalrymple Elliott

We know for a fact that Elizabeth Craven was personally acquainted with Grace Dalrymple Elliott, the Scottish beauty who was famed in her lifetime for many reasons, not least for being at various times the mistress of the English Prince of Wales and of the French Duc d'Orléans.  If those two great connoisseurs of female beauty both paid homage to her, we can be certain that Grace was really very attractive and the portraits are not misleading.

In this portrait by Gainsborough, Grace emphasizes her magnolia-white skin by wearing a black ribbon tied under the chin and trailing down her long neck into the bosom.

Grace Elliott and Elizabeth Craven had a common acquaintance with George, Earl of Cholmondeley, the wealthy playboy who is said to have fathered one of Grace's children. They moved in the same circles. Yet Craven does not mention Grace Elliott in her Memoirs, nor does Grace Elliott mention Craven in hers. This leads to the conclusion that the two women probably did not like each other.
When they met in London in around the year 1780, Craven made a  joke about Grace Elliott's remarkable height  - she was about six feet tall. Grace was pointed out to her in Ranelagh Gardens, whereupon Craven exclaimed, "Oh, Lord, I know that figure... it is extremely familiar to me; that is GLUMDALCLITCH, the heroine of Gulliver's Travels, — I have the Dean's works in my private library, with cuts!" (i)  Glumdalclitch was a giantess in Brobdingnag, and the witticism is rather caustic. Craven, who was rather tall herself by the standards of the time, was not used to meeting other women who towered over her in this startling way. If the joke was repeated to Grace, she might not have thought it funny.

Lord Cholmondeley was described by contemporaries as as "the ladies' universal favourite, the young and athletic Earl of C-------". In 1782, Grace Elliott gave birth to a daughter, whose father was according to her baptismal certificate the Prince of Wales. However, nobody could see any resemblance to the fair, fat Hanoverians and she is much more likely to have been the daughter of Lord Cholmondeley, who, together with his wife, obligingly brought her up.

By 1784, Elizabeth Craven was living in Paris where she became well acquainted with the Duc de Chartres, later Duc d'Orléans who was one of Grace's many lovers. He was an Anglophile, rather stout with a spotty face, not at all handsome, but certainly clever, and immensely rich. She writes much about him in her Memoirs, showing an insight into his political maneouvering, but she never mentions Grace. The Rambler's Magazine reported that Paris society was dazzled by a "quadrille of English beauties  - Lady Worsley, Mrs Robinson, Mrs Elliott and Lady Craven" but Elizabeth when she wrote her Memoirs did not wish to be classified with the others, who were all regarded as fallen women, adored by men but not welcome among ladies of good reputation. Lady Worsley had been divorced with more than the usual scandalous revelations from her husband, Sir Richard. Mrs Mary "Perdita" Robinson was rarely out of the gossip columns after her affair with the Prince of Wales. It is perhaps a pity that Craven's Memoirs do not give us a little more candid insight into this circle of acquaintance, a disreputable, adventurous and unconventional lot.

(i)The Rambler's Magazine, August 1784 p, 302.


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