The Queen of the Poor
Publication date: August 9th 2023
Genres: Adult, Historical
Angela Burdett-Coutts was a wealthy woman who used her money, class and prestige to make a tangible difference for those less fortunate. She would become one of the most outspoken and dedicated philanthropists of her day. Throwing herself into the causes she valued the most, her charity work became renowned, earning her recognition from none other than Queen Victoria herself.
Coutts the bank was founded in 1692 but really took off when Thomas Coutts took over at the beginning of the 19th Century. He made a fortune, and left it to his second wife, 40 years younger and an actress. When she died, she left it all to Thomas’ granddaughter, Angela Burdett-Coutts.
Suddenly, Angela became the second wealthiest woman in England after Queen Victoria. She had to hire bodyguards to keep fortune hunters away. But because of her wealth and also because her father was a radical politician, she moved in the most interesting circles of Victorian society, where she met and has numerous affairs with famous people, like the chemist Michael Faraday and many others including Charles Dickens and the Duke of Wellington.
She caused something of a scandal with her radical lifestyle, but because of her wealth, and the fact that she spends most of her money on charity, opening schools for impoverished children, helping Dickens with the housing for the poor, housing prostitutes and getting them off the streets she’s almost beyond criticism…. until, at the age of 66, she caused absolute shock and outrage, because she chose to marry her 29-yearold secretary called William Lehman Ashmead Bartlett. Whilst this in itself does not appear particularly shocking, as he was, like her father, a Member of Parliament, the astonishing age gap left society aghast. Whilst she was sixty-seven, he was just twenty-nine years old.
When Harriot Mellon Coutts and the duke had married, it had caused a sensation, mainly because he was twenty-three years younger than she was. Also, despite her previous marriage to the late Thomas Coutts, she was still known far and wide in British aristocratic society as ‘the actress’. Appearing at the reading of his wife’s will wasn’t something which the duke would countenance, not with all her damnable relatives pointing and sniggering.
Explanation (On her death in 1837, her property and fortune went to her step granddaughter, selected as heir after careful scrutiny of the possible recipients, who as a condition of the inheritance adapted her name to Angela Burdett-Coutts.)
Alan Gold began his career as a journalist, working in the UK, Europe, and Israel. In 1970, he emigrated to Australia with his wife, Eva, and now lives in St. Ives, Sydney, where he divides his time between writing novels and running his award-winning marketing consultancy.
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