Sarah Louisa Fairbrother as Abdullah in Open Sesame, staged in 1844
31 October 1816|
James Street, Westminster, London, England, United Kingdom
|Died||12 January 1890
6 Queen Street, Mayfair, London, England, United Kingdom
|Kensal Green Cemetery
|Spouse(s)||Prince George, Duke of Cambridge (m.1847)|
|Partner(s)||Charles Manners-Sutton, 2nd Viscount Canterbury
Sarah Fairbrother (calling herself Louisa and known from 1859 as Mrs FitzGeorge; 31 October 1816 – 12 January 1890) was an English actress and the mistress of Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, a male-line grandson of George III. As the couple married in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act 1772, their marriage was not recognized under the law.
Sarah Fairbrother was born in James Street, Westminster and baptised at St James, Westminster, 8 October 1817. Her parents were John Fairbrother, a servant in Westminster, and Mary Tucker whose maiden name may have been Phillips. The details of her birth, parentage, and first two children were revealed for the first time in Anthony J. Camp's Royal Mistresses and Bastards: Fact and Fiction 1714-1936 (London, 2007). Her father was described as a servant in 1813 and 1817, but as a labourer in 1824. His family had no connection with Robert Fairbrother, the prompter at Drury Lane Theatre, or with the Fairbrother family of printers in Bow Street, Covent Garden, as is frequently stated.
Sarah first appeared on the stage in ballet at the Kings Theatre, London; she acted Clara in Luke the Labourer at the Caledonian Theatre, Edinburgh, 3 February 1827; Zephyr in Oberon at the same theatre, 26 August 1827; danced at Covent Garden Theatre 1830-35 and 1837–43; danced at Surrey Theatre, 1832–34; Columbine in pantomime of Valkyrie, 26 December 1832; acted and danced at Drury Lane Theatre, January 1836 to 1837; Columbine in pantomime of Harlequin and Old Gammer Gurton, 26 December 1836; played Margaret in Much Ado About Nothing at Drury Lane, 24 February 1843; member of Lyceum Theatre Company, 8 April 1844 to 11 June 1847 and 18 October 1847; acted Transimenus in Planche's The Golden Branch, 3 January 1848; and was 'considered the most lovely woman of her time'.
Sarah had an illegitimate son, Charles Manners Sutton Fairbrother, on 8 August 1836. He was baptised at St Mary, Islington, 12 March 1837, and seems to have been the son of Charles John Manners Sutton, later 2nd Viscount Canterbury (1812-1869). He died unmarried at 19 Pall Mall, Middlesex, 14 March 1901.
Sarah had an illegitimate daughter, Louisa Catherine, on 22 March 1839. She was baptised in the surname Bernard at St James, Westminster, 5 July 1839, and was the daughter of Thomas Bernard, of Castle Bernard, King's County, Ireland, who made provision for her at the time of her marriage. She married (in the surname FitzGeorge) at St George Hanover Square, 7 May 1859, Francis Fisher Hamilton (1830-1891) and died without issue, at 14 Victoria Square, London, 13 June 1919.
Sarah Fairbrother met Prince George of Cambridge, 10 February 1840, and had two illegitimate children by him: George in 1843 and Adolphus in 1846. She was pregnant with a third child, Augustus (born 12 June 1847) when she obtained a licence from the Faculty Office on 17 December 1846 and went through a form of marriage with the Prince on 8 January 1847.
On 8 January 1847, she married at St John Clerkenwell, London, Prince George of Cambridge, describing himself as 'George Frederick Cambridge, gentleman' and signing 'George Cambridge', the son of Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge and Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel. Under the Royal Marriages Act 1772, Prince George was required to seek the permission of the British monarch (at that time his cousin, Queen Victoria) to marry, but failed to do so as permission to marry an actress with four illegitimate children by three fathers would never have been given.
Legend created for the couple an idyllic relationship that seems far from the reality, she having many moments of suspicion and jealousy and he frequently lying about his affairs. She was an invalid from 1867. The Prince's comment in 1884 that 'when a man, through some unfortunate accident, makes a great mistake, he must abide by it' was taken to refer to their illegal marriage.
Her three children by the Prince were:
- Colonel George FitzGeorge (24 August 1843–2 September 1907); married Rosa Baring (9 March 1854-10 March 1927), daughter of William Baring of Norman Court, Hants., by Elizabeth Hammersley.
- Rear Admiral Sir Adolphus FitzGeorge, KCVO (30 January 1846–17 December 1922); married (1) Sofia Holden (1857–3 February 1920), daughter of Thomas Holden of Winestead Hall, Hull; and had issue; (2) Margaret Watson (1863–26 February 1934), daughter of John Watson; no issue.
- Colonel Sir Augustus FitzGeorge, KCVO, CB (12 June 1847–30 October 1933).
Mrs FitzGeorge died at 6 Queen Street, Mayfair, London, on 12 January 1890, and was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery, London, 16 January 1890, very near to another of the Prince's mistresses, Mrs Louisa Beauclerk, who had died in 1882, he having determined in 1849 that he would be buried near Mrs Beauclerk. He had known Mrs Beauclerk since 1837, saw much of her from 1847, and she was his mistress from 1849, he later describing her as 'the idol of my life and my existence'.