Biography

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Sarah Sophia Child, Lady Jersey (1785-1867)

Lady JerseySarah Sophia, Lady Jersey, was the eldest daughter of John Fane, tenth earl of Westmorland and his wife Anne, the daughter and sole heiress of the banker, Robert Child, of Osterley Park, Middlesex.

At Gretna Green on 23 May 1804, Sarah Child married George Villiers, fifth Earl of Jersey and eighth Viscount Grandison (1773-1859).

Lord Jersey assumed the additional name of Child on 1 December 1819. He and his wife he had five sons and three daughters. He was educated at Harrow, and graduated M.A. from St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1794. He twice held the office of lord chamberlain of the household of William IV, in 1830 and 1834-5, and twice also that of master of the horse to Queen Victoria in 1841-6 and 1852.

He was an ardent foxhunter; ‘Nimrod’ in his Crack Riders of England refers to him as ‘not only one of the hardest, boldest, and most judicious, but perhaps the most elegant rider to hounds the world ever saw.’ For a long series of years, beginning in 1807, he was one of the chief pillars of the turf, breeding and training his own horses at his Oxfordshire seat, Middleton, among which were many celebrated winners. Jersey received the honorary degree of D.C.L. at Oxford in 1812, was appointed a privy councillor in 1830, and a knight grand cross of the Guelphs of Hanover in 1834. He died at 38 Berkeley Square, London, on 3 Oct. 1859, and was buried at Middleton Stoney.

Sarah, Lady Jersey, sometimes called Sally, became a leader of the best of London society; she was a patroness of Almack's Assembly Rooms. The young Lady Jersey should not to be confused with her mother-in-law, Frances, Lady Jersey, wife of the 4th Earl of Jersey, who was mistress to the Prince of Wales. Sarah was determined, through a great show of personal virtue, to distance herself from the notorious reputation of her mother-in-law. Captain Gronow described her as 'a threatrical tragedy queen; and whilst attempting the sublime, she frequently made herself simply ridiculous, being inconceivably rude, and her manner often ill-bred.' She is reported to have introduced the quadrille to Almack's in 1815.She was immortalized as Zenobia in Disraeli's Endymion. Lady Jersey was known, ironically, by the nickname Silence.

The countess owned the chief interest in Child's bank by Temple Bar. She offered an asylum to Byron at Middleton Park in 1814-5, and is said to have suggested the characters of Lady St. Julians in Disraeli's ‘Coningsby’ and ‘Sibyl. She outlived her husband and six of her children.


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Last modified 11 November, 2013

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