Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Germain, Elizabeth

GERMAIN, Lady ELIZABETH or Betty (1680–1769), was second daughter of Charles, second earl of Berkeley. The Duchess of Marlborough wrote of her in 1738 that 'notwithstanding the great pride of the Berkeley family she married an innkeeper's son,' and maliciously adds in explanation that 'she was very ugly, without a portion, and in her youth had an unlucky accident with one of her father's servants.' The innkeeper's son was Sir John Germain [q. v.], and she was his second wife. They met at the Hot Wells, Bristol, and were married in October 1706. She was many years younger than her husband, but her good sense made their union happy. They had three children, two boys and a girl, who all died young, and in acknowledgment of her devotion in nursing them Germain left her the estate of Drayton in Northamptonshire, and the vast property which he had inherited from his first wife. He expressed the wish on his deathbed that she would marry a young man and have children to succeed to her wealth, but hoped that otherwise her fortune might pass to a younger son of Lionel, duke of Dorset, who had married Elizabeth, daughter of Lieutenant-general Walter Philip Colyear, his friend and colleague in the Dutch service. Though almost persuaded in her old ago to marry Lord Sidney Beauclerk, a handsome and worthless fortune-hunter, she remained a widow for more than fifty years, and fulfilled her husband's wishes by leaving the estate of Drayton, with 20,000l. in money, to Lord George Sackville, the duke's second son, who then assumed the name of Germain [see Germain, George Sackville], She died at her house in St. James's Square, London, on 16 Dec. 1760. Her elder sister married Thomas Chamber of Hanworth, Middlesex, and had two daughters, who, as their parents died young, were brought up entirely under her guardianship. The elder niece married Lord Vere, the younger became the wife of the wellknown Lord Temple. The disposition of Lady Betty's money is set out in a letter from Vere to Temple (Grenville Papers, iv. 490-3). She left 120,000l. in the funds. Horace Walpole paid a visit to Drayton in 1763, and found the house 'covered with portraits, crammed with old china.' Many of her curiosities were sold after her death, by auction. The cameos and intaglios collected by Thomas Howard, earl of Arundel, were bequeathed to Germain by his first wife, the divorced Duchess of Norfolk. Lady Betty offered the collection to the British Museum for 10,000l., and, as the offer was declined, gave them in 1762 to her great-niece, Lady Mary Beauclerk, who married Lord Charles Spencer, brother of the third Duke of Marlborough. These gems were described in two folio volumes entitled 'Gemmarum antiquarum delectus quse in dactyliothecis Ducis Marlburiensis conservantur,' 1781-90; the engravings were chiefly by Bartolozzi, and the Latin text by Jacob Bryant [q. v.] and William Cole (1753-1806) [q. v.] The gems were part of the Marlborough collection sold in 1875 for 36,750l.

She is acknowledged to have 'outlived the irregularities of her youth, and she was esteemed for her kindness and liberality.' She gave 500l. to the Foundling Hospital in 1746. Her politics were indicated by a present of 100l. to Wilkes during his imprisonment in the Tower. Swift was chaplain to her father, then a lord justice in Ireland. Her name is often mentioned in the 'Journal to Stella,' and Lady Betty often disputed with the dean on political topics. Many letters to and from her are included in Swift's 'Works' and in the 'Suffolk Correspondence.' Her spirited letter in defence of Lady Suffolk against the censure of Swift is especially singled out as doing her 'great honour.' She added a stanza to the dean's ballad on the game of traffic, written at Dublin Castle in 1699, which produced from him in August 1702 a second ballad 'to the tune of the Cutpurse.' Young dedicated to Lady Betty his sixth satire on women, and according to a correspondent in Nichols's 'Literary Anecdotes,' ii. 11, she was credited with having written a satire on Pope. The manuscripts at Drayton, now the property of Mrs. Stopford-Sackville, are described in the Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. pt. iii., and among them are communications to and from Lady Betty. There are at Knole, near Sevenoaks, two rooms still known as her bedroom and dressing-room.

[Suffolk Corresp. i. 71-3, ii. 18-20, 43, 54-7, 159, 171-3, 213-15; Swift's Works (1884 ed.), xiv. 55-8, xvii. and xviii. passim, xix. 531; Pope's Letters, iii. (Works, viii.) 352-3; Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire, ii. 40; Grenville Papers, i. 135-136, iii. lxviii-ix; Walpole's Corresp. (Cunningham), i. cliv, 187, iv. 99-101, 505, v. 290, viii. 142; Wraxall's Memoirs (1884 ed.), iii. 131-3; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 4; Gent. Mag. 1746 p. 439, 1769 p. 609; Bridgman's Sketch of Knole (1817), pp. 36-7; Brady's Knole (1839), pp. 118-121; Life of the Countess of Huntingdon (1844 ed.), ii. 48-9; Bedford's Art Sales, i. 4, ii. 195-198.]

W. P. C.