Regency Women of Charater: Lady Jersey

Sarah Sophia Villiers, daughter of the 10th Earl of Westmorland, became Lady Jersey upon marriage to George Villiers, 5th Earl of Jersey in 1804.

Nicknamed, rather ironically, Silence, Sarah was born in 1785 and lived until 1867.  Her mother was the principal shareholder and heiress as the only child to her father’s banking firm Child & Co.  Consequently, Sarah inherited Osterely Park as well as the privilege of being senior partner in the bank.  Accordingly, she was widely regarded as the great heiress of her time and received many suitors (including Lord Granville) before accepting Lord Jersey.

As one of the Lady Patronesses of Almack’s, Lady Jersey cast off the wicked shadow of her mother-in-law to become one of the leaders of the ton during the Regency.

More importantly, she became one of Queen Caroline’s prime supporters and was a notorious supporter of the Whig party.

Lady Jersey was so politically entrenched that she made loyalist news in the form of John Bull, a ministerial publication for which she charged a suit of libel, claiming they had impugned her honor.

By some contemporaries, she was considered spoiled and eccentric.  Lady Harriet Granville writes, “She has made herself more ridiculous…than I have words to say….Another of her ridicules is to talk long and loud of her lonely and deserted situation here (Paris, 1826) and of her grief at being separated from son mari et ses enfas.”

However, her political prowess was significant, and she was well recognized of a women of influence among the ton and political circles.  No doubt the political machinations of ladies  like Lady Jersey paved the way for woman’s suffrage.

Coupled with her ability to manage her tidy fortune and cast off any infamy courtesy of the Dowager Lady Jersey, she definitely had character.

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