Elizabeth Wilmot, Countess of Rochester

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Elizabeth Wilmot, Countess of Rochester (1651 – 20 August 1681) was an English heiress and the wife of John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, the "libertine." She was born Elizabeth Malet,[1] the daughter of John Malet of Enmore Manor, and Unton Hawley.

Elizabeth Wilmot (Malet) by Peter Lely


John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester became infatuated with Elizabeth Malet and asked for her hand in marriage. She refused to marry the earl, and he attempted to abduct her on 26 May 1665. In his diaries, Samuel Pepys describes Elizabeth Malet as the "great beauty and fortune of the North" and notes the scandal of her kidnapping by Rochester:

Thence to my Lady Sandwich’s, where, to my shame, I had not been a great while before. Here, upon my telling her a story of my Lord Rochester’s running away on Friday night last with Mrs. Mallett, the great beauty and fortune of the North, who had supped at White Hall with Mrs. Stewart, and was going home to her lodgings with her grandfather, my Lord Haly, by coach; and was at Charing Cross seized on by both horse and foot men, and forcibly taken from him, and put into a coach with six horses, and two women provided to receive her, and carried away. Upon immediate pursuit, my Lord of Rochester (for whom the King had spoke to the lady often, but with no successe) was taken at Uxbridge; but the lady is not yet heard of, and the King mighty angry, and the Lord sent to the Tower. Hereupon my Lady did confess to me, as a great secret, her being concerned in this story. For if this match breaks between my Lord Rochester and her, then, by the consent of all her friends, my Lord Hinchingbroke stands fair, and is invited for her. She is worth, and will be at her mother’s death (who keeps but a little from her), 2500l. per annum. [2]

Graham Greene corrects Pepys. He writes about the Heiress of the West.[3]. In the quote from Pepys Mrs. Stewart is Frances Teresa Stuart, duchess of Richmond and Lennox, my Lord Haly is Francis Hawley, 1st Baron Hawley and Lord Hinchingbroke is Edward Montagu, Viscount Hinchingbroke at the time and later 2nd earl of Sandwich.

Elizabeth Malet later forgave Rochester, and they were married on 29 January 1667.

After the couple married, Rochester spent much of his time in London, where he engaged in public affairs, most famously with the actress Elizabeth Barry. Elizabeth Wilmot stayed in his house at Adderbury House in Oxfordshire along with Rochester’s mother Anne Wilmot, Countess of Rochester, her mother Elizabeth Hawley, and Rochester’s nieces Eleanor and Anne Lee (later the poet Anne Wharton).[4]


  1. Charles Wilmot, 3rd Earl of Rochester (christened 2 January 1670/71 – 12 November 1681)
  2. Lady Anne Wilmot (christened 30 August 1669) married firstly Henry Bayntun, Esq., a country gentleman, by whom she had issue one son and one daughter Anne Bayntun[5] (mother of Sir Edward Bayntun-Rolt, 1st Baronet[6][7]). She married secondly the poet Hon. Francis Greville, MP (1 Jul 1667-11 Oct 1710), eldest son of Fulke Greville, 5th Baron Brooke of Beauchamps Court, and had two sons, the 6th and 7th Barons Brooke; the 7th Baron was father of Francis Greville, 1st Earl of Warwick.[8]
  3. Lady Elizabeth Wilmot (christened 13 July 1674 – 1 July 1757); she married 8 July 1689 Edward Montagu, 3rd Earl of Sandwich (10 April 1670 – 20 October 1729), and had issue, one daughter (who died young) and one son Edward Montagu, Viscount Hinchingbrooke, father of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (for whom the sandwich, is named). She became renowned for her learning and wit.
  4. Lady Malet Wilmot (christened 6 January 1676, d. 13 January 1708/9)[9] married John Vaughan, 1st Viscount Lisburne on 18 August 1692; their son was Wilmot Vaughan, 3rd Viscount Lisburne, father of Wilmot Vaughan, 1st Earl of Lisburne, ancestor of the present Earl.


Elizabeth Wilmot died in 1681, a little more than a year after her husband. Her son Charles died soon thereafter.


Elizabeth Wilmot's poetry survives in a manuscript that she and her husband produced together. The manuscript, now held by the University of Nottingham, includes songs and a fragment of a pastoral attributed to Elizabeth Wilmot, some of which has been anthologized in Kissing the Rod: An Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Women's Verse.

Pop Culture[edit]

In the 2004 movie The Libertine, Elizabeth was portrayed by Rosamund Pike.


  • Johnson, James William. A Profane Wit: The Life of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. Rochester, NY, U.S.: University of Rochester Press, 2004.
  • Kissing the Rod: An Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Women's Verse. Edited by Germaine Greer, Susan Hastings, Jeslyn Medoff, and Melinda Sansone. New York: The Noonday Press, 1988.


  1. ^ The name Malet is at times spelled Mallet or even Mallett. Mallet family history Accessed May 6, 2007
  2. ^ See the diary of Samuel Pepys, entry for Sunday 28 May 1665, available online at [1]
  3. ^ Biographical information from the entry on Elizabeth Wilmot in Lord Rochester's Monkey, written by Graham Greene,ISBN 0 370 10290 8
  4. ^ Biographical information from the entry on Wilmot in Kissing the Rod, edited by Germaine Greer, Susan Hastings, Jeslyn Medoff, and Melinda Sansone.
  5. ^ http://www.bayntun-history.com/AnneBayntun1689.htm
  6. ^ Lundy, Darryl. "Sir Edward Bayntun-Rolt, 1st Bt". The Peerage. [unreliable source]. His only surviving son was the second and last baronet.
  7. ^ http://www.bayntun-history.com/EdwardBayntunRolt1710.htm
  8. ^ Lundy, Darryl. "Francis Greville, 1st Earl of Warwick". The Peerage. [unreliable source] was his third and youngest, but only surviving son]
  9. ^ Johnson has Malet Wilmot's christening and death as 1676 and 1709. Johnson, James William. A Profane Wit: The Life of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. Rochester, NY, U.S.: University of Rochester Press, 2004.

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