Milbanke, Ralph Gordon Noel King (DNB12)

MILBANKE, RALPH GORDON NOEL KING, second Earl of Lovelace (1839–1906), author of 'Astarte.' born at 10 St. James's Square, London. on 2 July 1839, was second son of William King, afterwards King-Noel, first earl of Lovelace (1805-1893), by his first wife, Ada Augusta, daughter of Lord Byron the poet [q. v.]. The father, who succeeded as eighth Baron King in 1833, was created earl of Lovelace on 30 June 1838. He was lord- lieutenant of Surrey from 1840 to his death in 1803, and interested himself in agricultural and mechanical engineering.

During 1847-8 Ralph was a pupil at Wilhelm von Fellen berg's Pestalozsian school at Hofwyl, near Berne [see under Herford, William Henry, Suppl. II.]. Subsequently educated privately, he matriculated at University College, Oxford, in 1859, but did not graduate. On the death on 1 Sept. 1862 of his elder brother, Byron Noel. Viscount Ockham, who had succeeded his grandmother. Lady Byron, as twelfth Baron Wentworth, Ralph himself became thirteenth Baron Wentworth. He had assumed the surname of Milbanke, Lady Byron's maiden surname, by royal licence on 6 Nov. 1861. Taking little part in public life, he read widely and showed independent if rather erratic judgment. At the age of twenty-two he spent a year in Iceland, and was a zealous student of Norse literature. In early life a bold Alpine climber, he spent much time in the Alps, while a peak of the Dolomites bears his name. An aooomplished linguist, he was especially conversant with Swiss and Tyrolese dialects. His intimate acquaintance with French, German, and English literature was combined with a fine taste in music and painting. He enjoyed the intimacy of W. E. H. Lecky and other men of letters. In 1898 he succeeded his father as second earl of Lovelace. In 1906 he privately printed 'Astarte: A Fragment of Truth concerning George Gordon Byron, first Lord Byron,' dedicated to M. C. L. (his second wife). This vigorous if somewhat uncritical polemic purported to be a vindication of Lovelace's grandmother. Lady Byron, from the aspersions made upon her after the 'revelations' of Mrs. Beecher Stowe in 1869–70. Lovelace alleged, on evidence of hitherto undivulged papers left by Lady Byron, and now at his disposal, that Byron's relations with his half-sister, Mrs. Augusta Leigh, were criminal, and that she was the 'Astarte' of the poet's 'Manfred.' Lovelace printed a statement signed in 1816 by Dr. Lushington, Sir Robert Willmot, and Sir Francis Doyle, and various extracts from correspondence. He also cited a letter in support of his conclusion from Sir Leslie Stephen, who had examined the papers. 'Astarte' provoked replies from Mr. John Murray (Lord Byron and his Detractors, 1906) and from Mr. Richard Edgcumbe (Byron: the Last Phase, 1909).

Lovelace died very suddenly at Ockham Park, Ripley, Surrey, on 28 Aug. 1906. After cremation at Woking his ashes were buried in the King chapel over the family vault in Ockham church. He was twice married: (1) on 25 Aug. 1869, to Fanny (d. 1878), third daughter of George Heriot, vicar of St. Anne's, Newcastle; (2) on 10 Dec. 1880, to Mary Caroline, eldest daughter of the Rt. Hon. James Stuart Wortley; she survived him. There was no male issue. Lovelace's daughter, Ada Mary, by his first wife, succeeded to her father's barony of Wentworth. The earldom of Lovelace devolved on his half-brother Lionel Fortescue King, son of the first earl by his second wife.

[G. E. C.'s and Burke's Peerages; The Times, 30 Aug., 3 and 10 Sept. 1906; Spectator, 15 Sept. 1906 (letter by 'O.' (Mrs. Ady); Brit. Mus. Cat.; Lovelace's Astarte and works cited.]

G. Le G. N.