Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Burdett-Coutts, Angela Georgina
BURDETT-COUTTS, ANGELA GEORGINA, Baroness Burdett-Coutts (1814–1906), philanthropist, born at the residence of her maternal grandfather, 80 Piccadilly, London, 21 April 1814, was youngest of the six children a son and five daughters of Sir Francis Burdett (1770-1844) [q. v.], politician. Her mother was Sophia, third and youngest daughter of Thomas Coutts [q. v.], the banker, by his first wife, Susan Starkie. Thomas Coutts very soon after the death of his first wife in 1815 married Harriot Mellon [q. v.], the actress, to whom, at his death on 24 Feb. 1822, he bequeathed unconditionally his entire fortune, including his interest in his bank.
Miss Burdett's childhood was passed with her parents at their country residences, Ramsbury, Wiltshire, and Foremark, Derbyshire, with occasional visits to Bath. Later she spent most of her time at her father's town house in St. James's Place. The house was frequented by leading politicians and literary men, including Disraeli, Tom Moore, and Samuel Rogers, all of whom became the girl's lifelong friends. She inherited many of her father's broad views, and among other qualities his natural and persuasive power of public speaking. While still young she made a prolonged tour abroad with her mother, lasting some three years. She studied under foreign masters and mistresses in each country where a stay was made. Her maternal grandfather's banking connection with European royalty and nobility, and her father's wide acquaintance with leaders of advanced opinion on the continent, introduced her to a wide social foreign circle which liberalised her interests and sympathies. She never considered her education ended, and amongst those whom she looked on almost as tutors in later years were William Pengelly [q. v.], the geologist, Faraday, and Wheatstone, all of whom stirred in her scientific interests.
Meanwhile Angela had attracted the favourable notice of the widow and heiress of her grandfather Coutts, who on 16 June 1827 married as her second husband William Aubrey de Vere Beauclerk, ninth duke of St. Albans. The duchess took a great liking to the girl, and on her death on 6 Aug. 1837 she made Angela heiress to her vast property. After providing for an annuity of 10,000l. a year to the duke, together with the occupancy of No. 80 Piccadilly and Holly Lodge, Highgate, during his life, the duchess left to Angela the reversion of those properties, and the whole of her remaining possessions, including her dominant share in Coutts's bank, and her leasehold interest in the town mansion, No. 1 Stratton Street. The duke her second husband died on 27 May 1849, when the duchess's testamentary disposition took full effect.
The duchess's selection of Angela, the youngest of her five step-granddaughters, to succeed to her first husband's fortune was kept secret to the end, and came as a surprise to the family. The duchess at first devised her bequest to Angela absolutely, but under pressure of the partners in Coutts's bank, which had become a financial institution of great importance, she modified her intention by devising the bank property in remainder to Angela's elder sisters on Angela's death without issue. The rest of the fortune remained free of restriction. On her succession to her fortune, Miss Burdett assumed the additional surname of Coutts by royal licence, and added the Coutts arms to those of the Burdett family.
In the autumn of 1837 Miss Burdett-Coutts removed from her father's house to 1 Stratton Street, taking there as her companion Hannah Meredith, her former governess. Miss Meredith married in 1844 William Brown, a medical practitioner, who died on 23 Oct. 1855, but Mrs. Brown remained the inseparable friend and chief companion of Miss Burdett-Coutts until her death on 21 Dec. 1878. Both Miss Burdett-Coutts's parents died within a few days of each other in January 1844, but since reaching her majority she had depended little on family counsel. From the outset Miss Burdett-Coutts, as 'the richest heiress in all England' (cf. Raikes, Journal, iv. 345), enjoyed a fame through the country second only to Queen Victoria. Her appearance in Westminster Abbey at Queen Victoria's Coronation (28 June 1838) excited enormous curiosity. Barham in his 'Mr. Barney Maguire's Account of the Coronation' in the 'Ingoldsby Legends' called special attention to the presence of
'that swate charmer,
The famale heiress, Miss Anjā-ly Coutts.'
Suitors were soon numerous and speculation as to her choice of a husband greatly exercised the public mind. No young man of good family is said to have abstained from a proposal, and exaggerated rumour ncluded the duke of Wellington and Prince Louis Napoleon among aspirants to her hand. But she declined all advances, and devoted herself exclusively to social entertainment and philanthropy, both of which she practised at her sole discretion on a comprehensive scale and on the highest and most disinterested principles. To her house, No 1 Stratton Street, she annexed the adjoining house, No. 80 Piccadilly, which reverted to her when the duke of St. Albans died in 1849, and there as well as at Holly Lodge, of which the duke's death also put her in possession, she extended hospitality to everybody of rank or any sort of distinction, whether English or foreign, for nearly sixty years. Her intimates were not many, but were of varied interests. She travelled little away from London, but from 1860 to 1877 she had a winter residence at Torquay. Her father's literary associates, Tom Moore and Samuel Rogers, were among her earliest friends. To the former she showed her tiara of Marie Antoinette and other famous jewels in 1845. The duke of Wellington was also soon one of her frequent guests. In May 1850 a grand entertainment which she gave in the duke's honour provoked much public notice. To her inner circle there were at the same time admitted Sir Robert Peel and Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Winchester, while both Disraeli and Gladstone were well known to her. With the royal family, many of whom were clients of Coutts's bank, she was from the first in close social relations. She was on very cordial terms with the first duke and duchess of Cambridge, and the intimacy was maintained with their son, the second duke of Cambridge, and especially with their daughter, the duchess of Teck. The latter's son, Prince Francis of Teck, was her godson, and to the duchess of Teck's daughter Mary, afterwards Queen Mary, she was always attached. French acquaintances were numerous. She visited the Emperor Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie at Compiegne, and she numbered the Duc d'Aumale among her friends till his death. For Americans the baroness cherished a regard, Her guests included from time to time the American ministers Motley, Bancroft, J. R. Lowell, Phelps, as well as statesmen of distinction, like Daniel Webster, Everett, and Robert Winthrop. In literature, science, art, and- the stage she was always interested. Shakespeare was an early hero, and she acquired by the advice of her friend William Harness [q. v.] the finest known copy of the first folio in 1864 at the then record price of 716?. [see art. Daniel, George]. Queen Victoria wrote her a letter of congratulation on the acquisition, and sent her a piece of Herne's oak from Windsor forest to make a casket to contain the book. At the sale of Samuel Rogers's pictures in 1855 she was a liberal purchaser. With Charles Dickens she formed a close friendship. The novelist aided her in many of her schemes of beneficence, and she took charge of his eldest son's education. To her Dickens dedicated his novel 'Martin Chuzzlewit' in 1844. 'She is a most excellent creature,' he wrote in 1843, 'and I have a most perfect affection and respect for her.' Her scientific friends included Sir William Hooker and his son Sir Joseph, whom she often visited at Kew, as well as Faraday and Tyndall. To leading actors she extended a generous hospitality. She was well acquainted with Macready, and when Henry Irving made his first success at the Lyceum Theatre in 1870 she became one of his most loyal admirers. Though she did not interest herself financially in his theatrical ventures, she freely used her social influence on his behalf, and commissioned Edwin Long to paint several portraits of him. She never missed any of his great revivals, and after the first performance of 'Richard III,' on 29 Jan. 1877, she presented him with Garrick's ring. In 1879 he was one of her yachting party in the Mediterranean and Adriatic, where he studied the costumes and scenic effects for his production of 'The Merchant of Venice.'
But Miss Burdett-Coutts's aim and chief occupation in life did not lie in social hospitality or recreation, although she never neglected either. Her business capacity was very great, and she personally administered her vast wealth. In the affairs of the bank, in which she held the largest share, she played an active part. Yet her energies were mainly spent in applying her fortune to purposes of private and public beneficence. Her relief of private suffering was catholic and discriminating ; she personally studied each case, and her sturdy commonsense duly restrained her lively sense of pity and protected her from imposture. Her private beneficiaries were chiefly the very poor, but she was always accessible to the appeal of struggling professional men, and all victims of sudden calamity. Doing little vicariously, she devised and developed for herself her schemes of philanthropy. Dickens was her almoner for a time, and on his recommendation William Henry Wills [q. v.] acted in that capacity from 1855 to 1871, when he was succeeded by Sir John Hassard. But all her charities were carried on under her own supervision, and her house at Stratton Street was often the meeting-place of the administrative committees. She was fertile in suggestion of method, and sought to turn to practical use existing agencies before instituting new ones. At the same time she was a pioneer in creating new modes of dealing with the problems of poverty, many of which were subsequently adopted well-nigh universally. Her public benevolence em- braced an exceptional range, and knew no distinction of race or creed. The welfare of the Church of England, the housing of the poor, elementary and scientific and technical education, the care of neglected children, the extension of women's industrial opportunities, the protection of dumb animals, colonial expansion, female emigration, the exploration of Africa, the civilisation of native races, the care of the wounded in war, were all causes in which she took an originating part and expended, virtually with her own hand, vast sums of money. Those who could help her in the distribution of her wealth on her own lines were among her most welcome guests at Stratton Street or Holly Lodge.
A strong protestant, but no doctrinal partisan, she first gave play to her philanthropic instinct by munificent benefactions to the Church of England, which she regarded as the best of all philanthropic organisations. William Howitt, in his 'Northern Heights of London' (1869), wrote, 'I suppose no other woman under the rank of a queen ever did so much for the established church ; had she done it for the catholic church she would undoubtedly be canonised as St. Angela.' The beautiful church of St. Stephen in Rochester Row, Westminster, which with the schools and vicarage form a striking and important architectural group in the Gothic style, designed by Benjamin Fcrrcy [q. v.], was built and endowed by Miss Burdett-Coutts, at a cost of more than 90,000l., in memory of her father, who represented the city of Westminster in parliament for thirty years. The foundation stone was laid on 20 July 1847, and the consecration followed on 24 June 1850. The duke of Wellington presented an altar cloth and a silk curtain taken from Tippoo Sahib's tent at the storming of Seringapatam. There he buried William Brown and his wife, Mrs. Hannah Brown, the baroness's lifelong friend. The district was poor, and Miss Burdett-Coutts, besides building the church, the patronage of which she retained, created a new and complete parochial organisation, including guilds, working and friendly societies, temperance societies, Bible classes, soup kitchens, self-help club, and the like.
Three other churches in London St. John's, Limehouse, in 1853 ; St. James', Hatcham, in 1854; and St. John's, Deptford, in 1855 were built by the assistance of Miss Burdett-Coutts, who placed in the hands of Charles James Blomfield [q. v.], the bishop of London, a sum of 15,000l. to be applied to the erection of churches at his discretion. In 1877 she joined with the Turners' Company in giving four of the peal of twelve bells to St. Paul's Cathedral. In the poorest district of Carlisle, too, she built at her entire cost another St. Stephen's church, which was consecrated on 31 May 1865. In 1872 she acquired the right of presentation to the vicarage of Ramsbury on her father's Wiltshire estate, and subsequently restored the church, while she acquired the living of the adjoining parish of Baydon, repaired the church, and increased the value of the living in perpetuity.
Religious feeling at first coloured her interest in colonial expansion, which grew steadily with her years. In 1847 she endowed the bishoprics of Capetown, South Africa, and Adelaide, South Australia, both of which were strictly modelled on the English diocesan system. Ten years later she founded the bishopric of British Columbia, providing 25,000l. for the endowment of the church, 15,000l. for the bishopric, and 10,000l. towards the maintenance of the clergy. She intended that her colonial bishoprics should remain in dependence on the Anglican church at home. In 1866, however, Robert Gray [q. v.], bishop of Capetown, in the course of his dispute with Bishop Colenso of Natal, declared his see to be an independent South African church. Miss Burdett-Coutts petitioned Queen Victoria to maintain the existing tie, but her action was without avail, and her colonial bishoprics became independent of the Church of England (cf. Lear, Life of Gray, ii. 263 seq. ; Cox, Life of Colenso, i. 269, ii. 36 seq.).
Miss Burdett-Coutts's first endeavour to enlarge the scope and opportunities of elementary and technical education formed part of her church work. In 1849 she built and established schools in connection with her church of St. Stephen's, Westminster, and in 1876 she enlarged her scheme by founding and endowing the Townshend School, partly from her own resources, and partly from a bequest left at her entire discretion by Chauncey Hare Townshend [q. v.]. The two schools were amalgamated in 1901, under the title of the Burdett-Coutts and Townshend Foundation Schools, and enjoy a high reputation. To complete her educational scheme for the district the baroness founded in 1893 the Westminster Technical Institute, which was handed over to the London County Council in 1901. In regard to the curriculum and administration of these foundations she was fertile in independent suggestion. She was the first to introduce sewing and cookery into elementary schools. At Whitelands (Church of England) Training College, in which she took a personal interest, she insisted on the importance of household economy, and gave prizes for essays in 'Household Work,' 'Country Matters,' 'Thrift,' and 'Household Management.' In 1865, while living at Torquay, she devised a scheme of grouping schools in the rural districts of Devonshire which was adopted by the authorities. She continued her father's interest in the Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institute. In 1879 she founded an Art Students' Home in Brunswick Square for girls, the first of its kind in London.
By way of advancing higher scientific education, she endowed at Oxford in 1861 two scholarships for 'the study of geology and of natural science as bearing on geology,' each of 'the annual value of about 1151. . and tenable for two years. They were accompanied by the gift to the university of the valuable Pengelly collection of Devonshire fossils, which she purchased of her scientific teacher, William Pengelly. For Kew Gardens she bought the rare and extensive Griffiths collection of seaweed and Schimper's great herbarium of mosses.
Poor and neglected children were always Miss Burdett-Coutts's especial care. Dickens had encouraged her to subsidise the Ragged School Union, started in 1844, and in his company she examined for herself the squalid poverty of child-waifs in London. Besides liberally supporting ragged schools, she actively aided the shoeblack brigades established about 1851 to provide employment for lads rescued by the ragged schools. In 1874 she made a first contribution of 5000l. to the scheme for training poor boys for a sailor's life on the ships Chichester, Arethusa, and Goliath. With a particularly attentive eye to the physical needs of poor children, she became president of the Destitute Children's Dinner Society, which was founded in 1866. Of a 'small society' for the defence and protection of children she was for a time trustee, and by directing the attention of the home secretary to its work in 1883 helped in the foundation of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children from which she withdrew when its operations were extended from London to the whole country [see Waugh, Benjamin, and Stretton, Hesha, Suppl. II]. Urania Cottage, in Shepherd's Bush, a home and shelter for fallen women, was inaugurated by her in 1847 with the aid of Charles Dickens. The rescued women were enabled to begin life anew; situations were found for them at home, and some were sent under safe guidance to the colonies.
The reform of the humble industries, especially in the East End of London, always appealed to her. About 1860 she started a 'sewing school' in Brown's Lane, Spitalfields, where adult women were taught the profitable and improved use of the needle during their spare hours. They were fed and housed for the time, and an organisation created which was able to undertake large government contracts. Medical comforts were at the same time dispensed under the same roof. Professional nurses were engaged to visit the sick poor of the district, and especially to relieve the dangers and privations of childbirth in poor homes. In 1860, when the treaty with France, by encouraging increased importation of French silks, destroyed the occupation of the handloom weavers, Miss Burdett-Coutts by forming the East End Weavers' Aid Association helped the operatives to meet the difficulty of finding other employments. Many families were installed in small shops, and the young girls were trained for service. Her enthusiasm for the colonies led her to send other East End weavers to Queensland or to Halifax, Nova Scotia (1863). In 1869 she sent some 1200 weavers of Girvan, in Ayrshire, to Australia. In 1879 she instituted a Flower Girls' Brigade for flower-sellers between thirteen and fifteen years of age, and simultaneously established a factory in Clerkenwell with the object of teaching crippled girls the art of artificial flower-making, while others were trained for domestic service and other work.
But the hard-working East End labouring poor, especially in Shoreditch and Bethnal Green, were always her foremost consider- ation. A night school which she established in Shoreditch in 1875 was converted into the Burdett-Coutts Club for young men and boys of the working-class, one of the first of its kind in London. A gymnasium was added in 1891, and the club is still carried on by Mr. Burdett-Coutts. At Bethnal Green she took a life-long interest in the costermonger class, and organised a club for them, and on the Columbia estate provided healthy and extensive stables for their donkeys. She was the first to institute donkey shows, with prizes for the humane treatment and good condition of the don- keys. She valued as much as anything in her great art collection a donkey in silver presented by the Costermongers' Club in 1875.
The baroness's love of animals was intense. She was long the acknowledged leader of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. As president of the ladies' committee she instituted the great scheme of essays for which many thousands of children throughout the country competed annually. She contributed largely to the prize fund, and her annual speeches to the vast audiences of children in the transept of the Crystal Palace were full of inspiration and pathos. She spoke at meetings in all parts of the country on the subject. 'Life whether in man or beast is sacred' was one of her oft-quoted sayings. Her pen was always at the service of the cause, and her letter to the Scottish Society (The Times, 5 Dec. 1873), on the ill-treatment of the Edinburgh tram-horses, is an eloquent indictment of cruelty. In 1872 she erected a handsome fountain at the corner of George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, in memory of 'Grey Friars Bobby,' the dog who refused to leave his master's grave. She provided other beautiful fountains and drinking-troughs, of which the best-known are those in Victoria Park at a cost of 5000Z. in 1862, in the Zoological Gardens in London, and in Ancoats, Manchester. She encouraged the breeding of goats largely for the benefit of poor cottagers. She became president of the British Goat Society, and her goats were famous at all shows. She distributed the young stock in distant parts of the country ; the milk was sent to hospitals. With characteristic energy and prescience she faced the housing problem in the poorer districts of London almost for the first tune. On the site of Nova Scotia Gardens in Bethnal Green, a plague spot and den of crime, she erected before the close of 1862 four blocks of model tenements, affording accommodation for over 1000 persons. The place was renamed Columbia Square. The Peabody dwelling-houses were built later on the same plan. On another plane of the housing problem, the baroness originated and carried out the idea of a garden city on her Holly Lodge estate, where she built 'Holly Village,' which provides separate residences for middle-class occupiers with the common enjoyment of open space and flower gardens.
In order to cheapen the food supply in the East End of London, Miss Burdett-Coutts embarked in 1864 on a great scheme of a market for fish and vegetables which should be free of the tolls of existing London markets. Columbia market was built at her expense on a site adjoining Columbia Square, after a private Act of Parliament was secured in 1866. The fine Gothic design had been prepared by Henry Ashley Darbishire. The cost exceeded 200,000l., and the opening ceremony was performed on 28 April 1869 (The Times, 29 April 1869). The venture proved one of Miss Burdett-Coutts's few philanthropic failures, owing to the antagonism of vested interests, but it directed attention to the public disadvantages of the pre-existing market monopolies. After vainly seeking to work the market as a wholesale fish store, she transferred it to the corporation of London on 3 Nov. 1871 ; but no better success followed, and the corporation retransferred it to her in 1874. It was reopened again in 1875 under an arrangement with three of the great railway companies, but the opposition of Billingsgate was again too strong. Later an effort was made to carry it on (1884-6) with a fleet of fishing-boats and steam carriers, and subsequently to constitute it a railway market served by all the great trunk lines, for which a new Act of Parliament was obtained. But further obstacles arose and the fine building was turned to other uses. The results of this protracted effort were at the same time far-reaching, and the methods of food distribution greatly improved both in London and in the country. But Miss Burdett-Coutts's philanthropic efforts were not limited to England. Ireland early attracted her. There she characteristically sought to combine with relief of distress a permanent improvement of the conditions of life and industry amongst the poor. In 1862 Father Davis, the parish priest of Rathmore, co. Cork (now Baltimore), appealed to her for aid on behalf of the people of the south-west of Ireland, especially in the district of Skibbereen, Crookhaven, and the (Islands' (Cape Clear, Sherkin, Hare, and the Calves), which had never recovered from the sufferings of the famine years 1848 and 1849. She established large relief stores at Cape Clear and Sherkin. In 1863 she sent a party of emigrants from the district to Canada, and later on two other parties. She sought to create a demand in England for Irish embroidery and other cottage industries. Her chief work, however, was to revive and extend the fishing industry of the south-west coast. She advanced large-sums of money, on a well-devised scheme of repayment out of profits, to provide the fishermen of Baltimore and the Islands with the best fishing-boats that could be built, and fitted them with modern and suitable gear. In the course of five years the new fishing fleet of Baltimore was valued at 50,000l. Much of the capital was in tune repaid ; and Father Davis used all his influence to keep his parishioners scrupulously to their engagements. In 1884 she paid her first visit to the district and was everywhere welcomed with enthusiasm. With the assistance of Sir Thomas Brady she soon afterwards helped to inaugurate a fishery training school for 400 boys at Baltimore. The school was opened by her on 16 Aug. 1887, when she was received with bonfires on the wild hill-sides, and flags flew from every cottage down the coast from Queenstown to Baltimore. In the distressed 'congested' districts of the west of Ireland she also took a keen interest. In 1880 she offered to advance no less a sum than 250,000l. to the English government for the supply of seed potatoes, on the failure of the potato crop. The government after some hesitation decided to take the matter up themselves.
An ardent desire to spread civilisation and enlightenment led her to support liberally many schemes for the extension of British rule over savage lands. She largely aided the enterprise of her friend, Sir James Brooke [q. v.], who founded the kingdom of Sarawak, in Borneo, in 1842, long maintaining there a model farm for native training in agriculture; she gave generous aid to Robert Moffat and David Livingstone in their African exploration, and extended like support to (Sir) Henry Morton Stanley, who rescued Livingstone in 1871. From the doubts at first cast on Stanley's veracity in his accounts of his African experiences she defended him with spirit, and he became a devoted friend. In 1887 she actively encouraged Stanley's expedition in search of Emin Pasha, which led to the foundation of a new East African empire. On the Guinea coast she also exerted her beneficence from early life. She learned that the cotton industry was retarded there by want of appliances, and she introduced cotton-gins into Abeokuta (Southern Nigeria). There followed a large increase in both cotton culture and trade, which were mainly in the hands of the natives. The Alake of Abeokuta visited England in 1904, and thanked his father's benefactress personally for her gift. Other of her foreign benefactions included the provision of lifeboats for the coast of Brittany and the supplying of funds for the ordnance survey of Jerusalem. An offer to restore the aqueducts of Solomon, and so secure a regular supply of water for the poor population of the sacred city, was not accepted.
Meanwhile in 1871 Queen Victoria gave signal expression to the gratitude of the nation to Miss Burdett-Coutts for her many services by conferring a peerage on her under the title of Baroness Burdett-Coutts of Highgate and Brookfield, Middlesex. This is the only instance of a woman being raised to the peerage in recognition of her personal worth and public achievement. An honour no less unique for a woman proceeded from the City of London, which conferred its honorary freedom on her on 18 July 1872. The freedom of the city of Edinburgh followed on 15 Jan. 1874. Various City companies paid her the same tribute, the Turners on 10 Jan. 1872, the Cloth-workers on 16 July 1873, the Haberdashers on 1 Nov. 1880, and the Coachmakers in 1894.
In 1877, during the Russo-Turkish war, the baroness made a strenuous effort to help the Turkish peasantry who were swept from their native villages in Roumelia and Bulgaria by the Russian advance. An eloquent appeal from her in the 'Daily Telegraph' of 13 Aug. 1877 led to the formation of the Turkish Compassionate Fund, to which she subscribed 2000l. Large contributions both in money, amounting to 50,000l., and in kind were received, mainly from the working classes. Mr. Burdett-Coutts (then Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett), as special commissioner to the fund, undertook with great efficiency the difficult task of organisation and administration. Eventually the refugees were drafted to Asia Minor. This generous help from England produced a lasting impression on the Turkish people, and endeared the baroness's name to the Moslem world. On the conclusion of peace at the close of the Russo-Turkish war in March 1878 the Sultan conferred on the baroness the diamond star and first class of the order of the Medjidie, which was given to no other woman save Queen Victoria. To this he subsequently added the grand cross and cordon of the Chafakat (Mercy), an order specially established in honour of ladies assisting in the work of relief. She was made a lady of grace of the order of St. John of Jerusalem on 17 Dec. 1888.
In 1879 the baroness in a like spirit served as president of a ladies' committee to aid the sick and wounded in the Zulu war, and she sent out a hospital equipment, trained women nurses forming a special feature of the staff. The voluntary hospitals in the South African war of 1899-1902, where women nurses were reluctantly sanctioned by military authorities, were largely modelled on the Zulu experiment of 1879.
On 12 Feb. 1881 the baroness was married at Christ Church, Down Street, to Mr. William Lehman Ashrnead-Bartlett, who assumed by royal licence the names of Burdett-Coutts and has been unionist M.P. for Westminster from 1885. He was of American birth, his grandparents on both sides having been British subjects [see Bartlett, Sir Ellis Ashmead, Suppl. II], and he had lived in England and been known to the baroness since boyhood. He was already associated in a voluntary capacity with many of her philanthropic schemes, notably in Ireland and Turkey. The difference of ages caused much gossip at the tune ; but by common consent the alliance ensured the baroness's happiness and prolonged her useful work to the end of her life. Her friend, Lady St. Helier, who was well qualified to judge, writes : 'The last years of her life were happy ones, and only those who knew her intimately perhaps realised how much her husband helped her' (Memories of Fifty Years).
The baroness's marriage did not slacken her philanthropic energies and interests. The war in the Soudan in 1884 greatly moved her, and she warmly admired Gordon's character and aims. On 18 Jan. 1884 he paid her a farewell visit at Stratton Street an hour before he left England for the last time. On his asking for some personal memento, she handed him a small letter-case which she always carried, and which was with him to the last. On 10 May 1884, in a letter to 'The Times,' she eloquently expressed the national sentiment, and appealed for his rescue from Khartoum.
In 1889 she opened a pleasure ground which had been made out of the Old St. Pancras cemetery, and she erected there a memorial sun-dial, with a record of famous persons buried there. One of these was Pascal Paoli, the Corsican patriot and refugee. His remains she restored at her own expense, with the approval of the French government, to Corsica, greatly to the Corsicans' satisfaction. In 1896, on her first visit to Corsica, the baroness received a popular ovation.
For the Chicago Exhibition in 1893 she compiled and edited a book describing 'Woman's Work in England,' from which she excluded all mention of herself. The omission was supplied by the duchess of Teck, who arranged for the separate publication at Chicago of a special memoir of the baroness's own work. In a preliminary letter the duchess wrote of the baroness, 'Great as have been the intrinsic benefits that the baroness has conferred on others, the most signal of all has been the power of example an incalculable quantity which no record of events can measure. She has ever sought, also, to increase the usefulness of women in their homes, to extend their opportunities of self-improvement, and to deepen the sources of influence which they derive from moral worth and Christian life.' The baroness died on 30 Dec. 1906 in her ninety-second year, of acute bronchitis, at 1 Stratton Street. For two days the body lay in state there surrounded by innumerable tributes, while nearly 30,000 persons, rich and poor, paid her their last respects. She was accorded burial in Westminster Abbey on 5 Jan. 1907, and was laid there in the nave near the west door, amidst notable demonstrations of popular grief and in the presence of a vast congregation representing nearly all the interests she had lived to serve, from the crown down to the humblest of its subjects.
The baroness's character and career gave philanthropy a new model. In the breadth and sincerity of her sjnnpathies and in the variety of her social and intellectual interests she had no rival among contemporary or past philanthropists. She became in her time a great and honoured ‘English institution,’ and most of her enterprises bore lasting fruit. Her example not only gave an immense stimulus to charitable work among the rich and fashionable but suggested solutions of many social problems.
In person the baroness was tall and slender, stately yet gentle and graceful in manner, and habitually wearing an expression of gravity and quiet composure, which was often brightened by subtle play of humour. She kept under stern control a highly strung nervous system, and until her closing years her physical strength enabled her to endure enormous labour without undue strain. There are portraits of the baroness by Stump about 1840 (head); by J. Jacob about 1846; two by J. J. Masquerier; by J. R. Swinton in 1863, engraved by George Zobel in 1874; by Edwin Long, R.A., in 1883. She was also painted with Mrs. Brown by James Drummond in 1874. There are also miniatures, by Stewart when four years old, by Jagger in 1826, and by Sir W. C. Ross, R.A., in 1847; and marble busts by William Brodie in 1874, and by G. C. Adams. All these are in the collection of Mr. Burdett-Coutts at 1 Stratton Street. A cartoon appeared in ‘Vanity Fair’ in 1883.
[The Times, 31 Dec. 1906 and 7 Jan. 1907; Thomas Moore's Memoirs, edited by Lord John Russell, 1853–6; Henry Crabb Robinson's Diary, 1869; William Howitt's Northern Heights of London, 1869; Julian Charles Young's Journal, 1871; John Forster's Life of Charles Dickens, 1872–4; Sir T. W. Reid's Life, Letters and Friendships of R. M. Milnes, first Lord Houghton, 1890; Baroness Burdett-Coutts: a sketch of her public life and work, prepared for the Lady Managers of the World's Columbian Exposition, by command of Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck, 1893; Woman's Mission: a series of Congress Papers on the philanthropic work of women, by eminent writers, 1893; George A. Sala's Life, 1895; A. J. C. Hare's Story of My Life, 1900; C. Kinloch Cooke's Memoir of the Duchess of Teck, 1900; Prebendary F. Meyrick's Memories, 1905; Bram Stoker's Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving, 1906; Lady St. Helier's Memories of Fifty Years, 1909; R. C. Lehmann's Charles Dickens as Editor, 1912.]