Theresa Yelverton

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Theresa Yelverton in Yosemite, 1870, seated in manzanita armchair made by James Hutchings. Carte-de-Visite by James Reilly.

Theresa Yelverton (née Maria Theresa Longworth; c. 1827–33 – 13 September 1881) was an English woman who became notorious because of her involvement in the Yelverton case, a 19th-century Irish law case, which eventually resulted in a change to the law on mixed religion marriages in Ireland.[1]


Longworth was born in Cheetwood, Manchester, Lancashire, England, the youngest of seven children born to Thomas Longworth, a silk manufacturer.[2] After meeting Major William Charles Yelverton, Viscount Avonmore on a steamer in August 1852, falling in love with him, and pursuing him for several years, she married him secretly on 15 August 1857 at Rostrevor, County Down, Ireland, allowing her to be styled as, and to have earned the title, "Thérèse Yelverton, Viscountess Avonmore". She was a nurse in 1857 in Galata, Russia during the Crimean War.

However, the Viscount remarried within the year, bringing about a series of trials (most notably, Thelwall v. Yelverton, between 21 February 1861 and 4 March 1861) during the course of which he allegedly used his influence with the House of Lords to annul his first marriage. The case brought notoriety and created very mixed feelings. "Theresa was alternately vilified and celebrated, portrayed as a victim who had been 'mercilessly abandoned' and accused of being a lascivious seducer. Sometimes she was depicted as innocent and pure, at others as a ruthless social climber. After six years of trials and appeals, she finally lost her case. In the process, however, she had become a minor celebrity."[3]

Afterwards, she led an itinerant life and supported herself by writing about her travels. Francis Farquhar wrote that she "spent the summer of 1870 in Yosemite, where she attached herself to the Hutchings family and made eyes at John Muir. He escaped to the woods, but not before she had noted enough of his conversation and his ways of life to make him over into Kenmuir, the hero of her novel."[4]


She died in 1881 in Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa.


  1. ^ History Ireland Magazine (2005) The Yelverton Affair; retrieved 9 December 2005 Archived October 31, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Boase, Frederic (1897). Modern English Biography: I-Q. Netherton and Worth. p. 1521. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  3. ^ Andrea Wulf, "He's Not That Into You" (review of Schama biography), New York Times, 2 April 2010
  4. ^ Francis Farquhar, Yosemite, the Big Trees and the High Sierra (University of California Press, 1948), pg. 45

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