Sarah Lyttelton, Baroness Lyttelton

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Sarah Lyttelton
Sarah Spencer (1787-1870), wife of William, 3rd Baron Lyttelton by John Jackson (1778-1831) cropped.jpg
Detail from a 19th-century portrait of Sarah, Lady Lyttelton by John Jackson
Born Sarah Spencer
(1787-07-29)29 July 1787
Althorp, Northamptonshire
Died 13 April 1870(1870-04-13) (aged 82)
Hagley, Worcestershire
Title Baroness Lyttelton
Spouse(s) William Lyttelton, 3rd Baron Lyttelton
Children Caroline
George Lyttelton, 4th Baron Lyttelton
Parent(s) George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer
Lavinia Bingham

Sarah Lyttelton, Baroness Lyttelton (née Spencer) (29 July 1787 – 13 April 1870) was a British courtier, governess to Edward VII of the United Kingdom, and wife of William Lyttelton, 3rd Baron Lyttelton.

She was born Lady Sarah Spencer at the Spencer seat of Althorp in Northamptonshire on 29 July 1787, and was the eldest daughter of the Whig politician Sir George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758–1834) and Lady Lavinia Bingham (1762–1831).[1]


St John the Baptist Church, Hagley, memorial to William Henry Lyttelton, 3rd Baron Lyttelton, and his wife Sarah, née Spencer
A c. 1849 portrait of Baroness Lyttelton's husband William Lyttelton, 3rd Baron Lyttelton

Sarah Spencer married Sir William Henry Lyttelton, 3rd Baron Lyttelton, on 4 March 1813. They had five children, two daughters Caroline (1816–1902) and Lavinia (1821–1850), and three sons George (1817–1876), Spencer (1818–1889) and William (1820–1884).

On 25 July 1839 her eldest son George (by then 4th Baron) married Mary, the daughter of Sir Stephen Richard Glynne, 8th Baronet. The marriage took place at Hawarden, the seat of William Ewart Gladstone who was simultaneously marrying Mary's sister Catherine. George became a distinguished classical scholar like his father, but committed suicide in 1876 by throwing himself down the stairs.[3] Sarah's daughter, Lavinia, was later to marry Reverend Henry Glynne, brother of Catherine and Mary Glynne.


Sarah Lyttelton was widowed in 1837, and shortly afterwards was offered the post of lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria. She is said to have commented to a friend at this time that "the character of an advisor, a woman of influence, a probable preserver or improver of the national morals is exactly the very last I could fill decently".[4] Over time, Lyttelton earned the respect of the Queen and the Prince Consort and, in April 1843, she was appointed governess to the royal children, who continued to call her "Laddle", even once they were grown.[4] She was also made a Lady of the Bedchamber by Queen Victoria. In 1850, Lavinia died following the birth of her fourth child, and Lady Lyttelton requested the Queen's permission to resign so that she and her remaining daughter, Caroline, could return to Hagley to care for the motherless children. This was very reluctantly granted, Victoria accepting that her reasons were unanswerable. She was granted an extremely generous annual pension of 800 pounds.[5]

Sarah Lyttelton died at Hagley on 13 April 1870 at the age of 82.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Lady Sarah Spencer [#105136]". 22 August 2007. Retrieved 24 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Hubbard, Kate (2012). Serving Victoria. Life in the Royal Household. Vintage. 
  3. ^ Angus Trumble (August 2003). "The Barons Lyttelton of Frankley" (PDF). National Library of Australia News. XIII (11): 3–6 at 6. 
  4. ^ a b Wallace Notestein (1970). English Folk: A Book of Characters. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-8369-1475-7. 
  5. ^ Hannah Pakula (1997) [1995]. An Uncommon Woman: The Empress Frederick: Daughter of Queen Victoria, Wife of the Crown Prince of Prussia, Mother of Kaiser Wilhelm (1st Touchstone ed.). New York, N.Y.: Simon & Schuster. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-684-84216-5.