Laura Pulteney, 1st Countess of Bath
Born Henrietta Laura Johnstone, she was the only child of the wealthy William Johnstone, later Sir William Pulteney, 5th Baronet, and his wife, Frances Pulteney, daughter of Daniel Pulteney. When her mother inherited the estate of her kinsman, Harry Pulteney (who had previously inherited them from William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath) in 1767, her parents took the name Pulteney. They moved to Bath House on Piccadilly, where she spent her childhood. On her mother's death in 1782, she inherited the vast Pulteney estates. Initially educated at home, Pulteney completed her education at the convent of Montparnasse in Paris in 1783. There she was visited by her kinswoman, the Countess of Hopetoun, her friend Lady Belmore and the Countess of Dundonald, the latter of whom introduced her to Parisian society. As a young woman, Pulteney spent time at Sudborough in Northamptonshire (later endowing a school there as well as in Clewer, Berkshire) where her neighbour was Archibald Alison, to whom she agreed to be a godmother to his son, William.
Peerage and marriage
Although Pulteney's father never sought political office, he did procure a peerage for her and she was created Baroness of Bath, in the County of Somerset, in 1792, aged twenty-six. Despite her mother's family having previously held the earldom of Bath until its extinction in 1764, a marquessate of Bath had been created for the 3rd Viscount Weymouth in 1789. Some peers attempted to have her peerage cancelled due to the unprecedented use of the same place name in two separate peerages for separate people. This was rejected and she was further elevated as Countess of Bath, in the County of Somerset, in 1803, although it is a general rule that, wherever possible, peerage titles should not be duplicated. On 17 July 1794, she married her father's first cousin, Sir James Murray, 7th Baronet and he took the additional surname of Pulteney.
When Lady Bath's father died intestate in 1805, his personal estate was divided between her and his second wife. Lady Bath inherited two thirds and property in England and America. She died just over three years later in 1808, possibly from consumption and was buried in the south cloister of Westminster Abbey. Her personal estate passed to her cousin, Elizabeth Evelyn Fawcett (daughter of Sir Richard Sutton, 1st Baronet and ex-wife of George Markham, Dean of York); she and her husband changed their name to Pulteney. Her landed estates passed to William Vane, 3rd Earl of Darlington. As she had no children, her titles became extinct. The town of Henrietta, New York, where her father invested in land, was named for her.
- Rowe, M. J. and McBryde, W. H. - Pulteney (formerly Johnstone), (Henrietta) Laura, suo jure countess of Bath (1766–1808), heiress - Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
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