Fairbrother as Abdullah in Open Sesame (or as Alladin in The Forty Thieves), 1844
31 October 1816|
James Street, Westminster, London
12 January 1890 (aged 73)|
6 Queen Street, Mayfair, London
|Resting place||Kensal Green Cemetery|
Prince George, Duke of Cambridge (m. 1847)
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 recognised 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.
This article contains too many or too-lengthy quotations for an encyclopedic entry. (August 2018)
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-Kassel. 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.
On the other hand, Giles St. Aubyn, in his biography of Prince George, 'The Royal George' (Butler & Tanner, London, 1963), wrote the following:
(p. 36) If the marriage was frowned on by his own family, it was very popular with most Englishmen. An old soldier's widow, who had been housekeeper at the Horse Guards, summed up popular feeling. 'Ah, well,' she said, 'he loved a fine woman and he married her and stuck to her, and said he would rather be buried with her in Kensal Green than with his own family in the royal vaults at Windsor.'
(p. 274) Finally, a week after the funeral, he went 'to Queen Street to take affectionate leave of the dear old house, including the room in which she died, where I have spent so many happy years of my life with my beloved wife. It overwhelmed me with grief and sorrow.'
(p. 275) The Duke, who never forget anniversaries, lived over again the miseries of Louisa's death in January 1891. 'My thoughts,' he wrote, 'were entirely absorbed with the sad recollection of last year, for this was the year my beloved Wife Louisa passed away from amongst us. Oh! how I deplore her loss, to me so great and irreparable. No words can express the intense sorrow that oppresses and depresses my heart.'
(p. 275) From everything that the Duke did, said and wrote, it is evident that he was devoted to Louisa, and it appears that his passion for Mrs Beauclerk in no way diminished his affection for his wife.
(p. 275-276) Lady Geraldine [Somerset], no doubt expressing the view of the Duchess, and, certainly in this instance, of the Queen, deplored the marriage and detested Louisa. Her opinions, of course, were poisoned by almost hysterical jealousy and her views on marriage were narrowly aristocratic.
(p. 277) Lady Geraldine's views were more often than not expressed with extravagant vigour, but they were recorded after all in a private journal with no thought of publication. She was neither obliged nor accustomed to weigh her words, and her likes were as passionate as her dislikes were vehement. Her hopeless infatuation for the Duke, her unthinking acceptance of social conventions, and her distracted jealousy, all encouraged her to blackguard Mrs. FitzGeorge.
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 of Waresley Court, Hartlebury; no issue.
- Colonel Sir Augustus FitzGeorge, KCVO, CB (12 June 1847 – 30 October 1933).
She died at 6 Queen Street, Mayfair, London, on 12 January 1890, and her body was deposited in the Mausoleum commissioned by the Prince at Kensal Green Cemetery, London, 16 January 1890, very near to another of the Prince's mistresses, Louisa Beauclerk, who had died in 1882, he having determined in 1849 that he would be buried near Beauclerk. He had known 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'.
- Mentioned in The Romantic Ballet by Sacheverell Sitwell: https://www.amazon.com/The-Romantic-Ballet-Sacheverell-Sitwell/dp/B0006D7PMW
- pp.330–338, and in the Addenda to that book posted at http://anthonyjcamp.com
- Frederic Boase, Modern English Biography, volume v (1965) p.302.