Dorothea Jordan

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Dorothea Jordan
Dorothy Jordan.jpg
Mrs. Jordan in the Character of Hippolyta, mezzotint by John Jones of London, 1791, after a painting by John Hoppner
Born (1761-11-21)21 November 1761
Died 5 July 1816(1816-07-05) (aged 54)
Children Frances Daly
1 son and 2 daughters with Ford
George FitzClarence, 1st Earl of Munster
Henry FitzClarence
Sophia Sidney, Baroness De L'Isle and Dudley
Lady Mary Fox
Lord Frederick FitzClarence
Elizabeth Hay, Countess of Erroll
Lord Adolphus FitzClarence
Lady Augusta Hallyburton
Lord Augustus FitzClarence
Amelia Cary, Viscountess Falkland

Dorothea Jordan (21 November 1761 – 5 July 1816) was an Anglo-Irish actress, courtesan, and the mistress and companion of the future King William IV of the United Kingdom, for 20 years while he was Duke of Clarence. Together they had ten illegitimate children, all of whom took the surname FitzClarence.

Early life[edit]

She was born Dorothea (sometimes called Dorothy or Dora) Bland near Waterford, Ireland, the daughter of Francis Bland (d. 1778) and his mistress, Grace Phillips. She was the paternal granddaughter of Nathaneal Bland (d. 1760), Vicar General of Ardfert and Aghada, and Judge of the Prerogative Court of Dublin, Ireland, and his wife Lucy (née Heaton).

In 1774, when she was 13, Dorothea's father, who worked as a stagehand, abandoned the family to marry an Irish actress. Though he continued to support the family by sending them meagre sums of money, they were poor and Dorothea had to go to work to help support her four siblings. Her mother, an actress by profession, saw potential in Dorothea and put her on the stage.

Stage life and early relationships[edit]

She became a famous actress of the day and was said to have the most beautiful legs ever seen on the stage. Audiences enjoyed her performances in breeches roles.[1] She assumed the name "Mrs. Jordan", because it was slightly more respectable for a married woman to be on the stage. In fact, there was no "Mr. Jordan" and Dorothea Bland never married. Some sources[clarify] state that the name and title were taken to conceal an early pregnancy. She had an affair with her first boss, Richard Daly, the manager of the Theatre Royal, Cork, who was married, and had an illegitimate daughter, Frances (b. 1782 Dublin), at age 20.

In England, she had a short lived affair with an army Lieutenant, Charles Doyne, who proposed marriage. But she turned him down and went to work for the theatre company operated by Tate Wilkinson. It was at this point she adopted the name "Mrs. Jordan" – a reference to her escape across the Irish Sea, likened to the River Jordan.[2] She appeared at Wilkinson's York Circuit theatres, including The Theatre, Leeds, where she complained of uncomfortable working conditions.[3]

Shortly after her affair with Wilkinson was over, she began an affair with George Inchbald, the male lead in the Wilkinson company. According to Claire Tomalin, Dorothea's biographer, Dorothea would have married Inchbald, so greatly was she in love with him, but that he never asked. Broken-hearted, she left him in 1786 to begin an affair with Sir Richard Ford, a police magistrate and a lawyer. She moved in with Ford when he promised to marry her. They had three children, a short lived son and two daughters. She left him to begin her affair with the Duke of Clarence, once she realised that Ford was never going to marry her.[4]

Relationship with William IV[edit]

Pretty, witty and intelligent, Jordan soon came to the attention of wealthy men. She became the mistress of William, Duke of Clarence, later King William IV, in 1791, living with him at Bushy House,[5] and seemed to have not bothered herself with politics or the political intrigues that often went on behind the scenes in royal courts. She continued her acting career, and made public appearances with the Duke when necessary. Together they had at least ten illegitimate children, all of whom took the surname FitzClarence:

Later life[edit]

In 1811, when she and the Duke separated, she was given a yearly stipend by him and custody of their daughters while he retained custody of their sons. Part of her stipend included money for the care of the children with a stipulation stating that in order to continue receiving that money, and retain custody, Dorothea must not return to the stage. In 1814, when a son-in-law became heavily in debt, Dorothea returned to the stage to help pay off that debt. Once the Duke received word of this, he removed their remaining daughters from her care, and took back her yearly stipend. To avoid creditors, she fled to France in 1815 and died at Saint-Cloud, near Paris, in poverty just a year later.

Notable descendants[edit]

Her notable descendants include:

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Denlinger, Elizabeth Campbell (2005), Before Victoria: extraordinary women of the British romantic era, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0-231-13630-3 
  2. ^ Information on Bland, Dorothea
  3. ^ Leodis, Discovering Leeds: The Theatre Retrieved 17 December 2013
  4. ^ pg. 90 & 91, Ladies of the Bedchamber, Dennis Friedman
  5. ^ Google Books The Story of Dorothy Jordan Armstrong, Clare & Jerrold, Bridgman. Ayer Publishing, 1969. ISBN 0-405-08672-5, ISBN 978-0-405-08672-4