Katherine Stanhope, Countess of Chesterfield

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Countess of Chesterfield
Katherine, Lady Stanhope.jpg
Katherine, Lady Stanhope by Anthony van Dyck
Born 1609
Boughton Malherbe, Kent
Died 9 April 1667 (age 58)
Belsize Park, Middlesex
Nationality English
Occupation Courtier
Spouse(s) (1) Henry Stanhope, Lord Stanhope (d. 1634)
(2) Johan van der Kerckhove, Lord of Heenvliet (d. 1660)
(3) Daniel O'Neill (d. 1664)
Children Mary Stanhope (1629-1660)
Catherine Stanhope (c.1633-1662)
Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield (1634-1713)
Charles van der Kerckhove, 1st Earl of Bellomont (1643-1683)
Amelie van der Kerckhove (1646-1663)
Dorothea Helena van der Kerckhove (d. 1703)
Parent(s) Thomas Wotton, 2nd Baron Wotton (1587-1630) and Mary Throckmorton (d. 1658)

Katherine Stanhope, Countess of Chesterfield (1609–1667) was the governess and confidante of Mary, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange, and was the first woman to hold the office of Postmaster General of England.

She was the older daughter of Thomas Wotton, 2nd Baron Wotton and his wife, Mary, daughter of Sir Arthur Throckmorton of Paulerspury, Northamptonshire.

She first married Henry, Lord Stanhope, in 1628, with whom she had two daughters, Mary and Catherine, and a son, Philip, who would later inherit the Earldom of Chesterfield from his grandfather in 1656. Her husband died prematurely in 1634.

After being courted by several suitors, she married Jehan van der Kerckhove, Lord of Heenvliet in early 1641, one of the diplomats involved in negotiating the marriage between William II, Prince of Orange and the Princess Royal Mary, daughter of King Charles I.

After the marriage of William and Mary in May 1641, she followed her husband to Holland as the governess to the princess Royal. As the princess came to age, Lady Stanhope grew to become her confidante and adviser.

During the English Civil War, Lady Stanhope sided with Charles I and his heir, King Charles II; she is said to have supplied them both politically and financially, and to have been involved in much of the royalist plots of that decade.

After the death of Heenvliet in 1660, Charles II created her Countess of Chesterfield in recognition of both her service and her friendship. She remained in princess Mary's service until the latter's death in illness on 24 December 1660. She then passed into service to Anne, Duchess of York, and in 1662 to the Queen, Catherine of Braganza.

That same year, Lady Catherine married her friend Daniel O'Neill, another one of the King's men during the civil war. Upon his death in 1664, she increased her by then already considerable wealth by inheriting O'Neill's office of the Postmaster General.[1] She died of an edema in 1667, and was buried on the estate of her father.


  1. ^ "GPO - PMG's & Secretaries". Falmouth Packet Archives 1688-1850. Retrieved 2010-03-05. 


Political offices
Preceded by
Daniel O'Neill
Postmaster General
(in right of her deceased husband)

Succeeded by
The Earl of Arlington