Dorothea Jordan

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Dorothea Jordan
Jordan by Hoppner.jpg
Mrs. Jordan in the Character of Hippolyta , painting by John Hoppner, first exhibited 1791 (previously in the National Gallery and Tate collections, now on loan to the National Portrait Gallery [1] )
Dorothea Bland

(1761-11-22)22 November 1761
Died5 July 1816(1816-07-05) (aged 54)
OccupationActress and courtesan
Partner(s) Richard Daly
Charles Doyne
Tate Wilkinson
George Inchbald
Richard Ford
William IV of the United Kingdom
Children Frances Alsop
Dorothea Maria March
Lady Lucy Hester Hawker
George FitzClarence, 1st Earl of Munster
Henry FitzClarence
Sophia Sidney, Baroness De L'Isle and Dudley
Lady Mary Fox
Lord Frederick FitzClarence
Elizabeth Hay, Countess of Erroll
Lord Adolphus FitzClarence
Lady Augusta Hallyburton
Lord Augustus FitzClarence
Amelia Cary, Viscountess Falkland

Dorothea Jordan (22 November 1761 5 July 1816) also known interchangeably as Mrs Jordan, and previously Miss Francis or Miss Bland, was an Anglo-Irish actress, courtesan, and the mistress and companion of the future King William IV of the United Kingdom, for 20 years (1791-1811) while he was Duke of Clarence. Together they had ten illegitimate children, all of whom took the surname FitzClarence .

A courtesan, in modern usage, is a euphemism meaning an escort, mistress or a prostitute, for whom the art of dignified etiquette is the means of attracting wealthy, powerful, or influential clients. The term originally meant a courtier, a person who attends the court of a monarch or other powerful person.

Mistress (lover) Female who is in an extra-marital sexual relationship

A mistress is a relatively long-term female lover and companion who is not married to her partner, especially when her partner is married to someone else.

William IV of the United Kingdom King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover 1830-1837

William IV was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and King of Hanover from 26 June 1830 until his death in 1837. The third son of George III, William succeeded his elder brother George IV, becoming the last king and penultimate monarch of Britain's House of Hanover.


Early life

Dorothea (often called Dorothy or Dora) Bland was born near Waterford, Ireland, on 22 November 1761, and was baptised at St Martin in the Fields, Middlesex, on 5 December of that year. [2] She was the third of six children born from Francis Bland (b. 1736 d. Dover, 2 January 1778) and his mistress, Grace Phillips (b. ca. 1740 d. Edinburgh, 1789). Her older siblings are George Bland (c.1758 Boston, Massachusetts, 1807; actor and singer) and Hester Bland (baptised at St Anne Soho, Middlesex, 2 March 1760 buried at St David's, as of Trelethin, 8 March 1848), and her younger siblings are Lucy Bland (1763/64 Trelethin, St David's, 1778, aged 14), Francis Bland (fl.1813; a captain, unmarried and without issue) and Nathaniel Phillips Bland (born 1766/67 buried at St David's, Pembrokeshire, 3 June 1830, aged 63). [2]

Her paternal grandparents were Nathaniel Bland (Killarney, co. Kerry, 1695/96 1760), Vicar General of Ardfert and Aghada, and Judge of the Prerogative Court of Dublin, Ireland, and his second wife Lucy (née Heaton). [2] The reports about Dorothea's maternal ancestry are very sketchy, although it is generally stated that Grace Phillips was probably the daughter of a Welsh clergyman (who lived in the early 1750s in Bristol) but he has not been identified with certainty. [2]

Ardfert Village in Munster, Ireland

Ardfert is a village in County Kerry, Ireland. Historically a religious centre, the economy of the locality is driven by agriculture and its position as a dormitory town, being only 8 km (5.0 mi) from Tralee. The population of the village increased by almost 10% between the 2006 recorded figure of 729 and the 2011 figure of 800.

Aghada Village in Munster, Ireland

Aghada is a small fishing town in East Cork situated to the south-east of Cork city in County Cork, Ireland. Aghada is the home of the Aghada GAA club. Notable people from the area include Gaelic football manager Conor Counihan, footballers Pearse O'Neill and Kieran O'Connor, and brothers Declan and Ciaran O'Shea of the rock band Cyclefly.

Dublin capital and largest city in Ireland

Dublin is the capital and largest city of Ireland. It is on the east coast of Ireland, in the province of Leinster, at the mouth of the River Liffey, and is bordered on the south by the Wicklow Mountains. It has an urban area population of 1,173,179, while the population of the Dublin Region, as of 2016, was 1,347,359, and the population of the Greater Dublin area was 1,904,806.

Before April 1774, when she was 13, Dorothea's father, who worked as a stagehand, abandoned the family [2] to marry an Irish actress. However, he continued to support the family by sending them meagre sums of money. This situation forced Dorothea to work to help her siblings. Her mother, an actress by profession, saw potential in Dorothea and put her on the stage. Dora became a famous actress and was said to have the most beautiful legs ever seen on the stage.

Theatrical career

The historical record of Jordan's first stage appearance is not clear. Some sources claim that Jordan made her debut in 1777 in Dublin, as Phoebe in As You Like It, whilst others that suggest she premiered as Lucy in the Interlude The Virgin Unmask'd, on the 3rd November 1779. [3] The knowledge of Jordans's time and other roles performed in Ireland is fragmentary, however documentation shows her her last appearance in Dublin came on the 16th May 1782 when she spoke the The Maid of Oaks' Prologue. At the time she was pregnant with the illegitimate son of the married theatre manager of the Smock Alley Theatre, Richard Daly. Rumours spread and they fled to England, specifically Leeds, where she was employed by Tate Wilkinson, manager of the York Company. [4] Her first performance in England was the tragic role of Calista in The Fair Penitent, for which she had been tutored for by the scholar Cornelious Swan. [5] Swan wrote to Tate to express his amazement at Jordan's talents:

<i>As You Like It</i> pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare

As You Like It is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1599 and first published in the First Folio in 1623. The play's first performance is uncertain, though a performance at Wilton House in 1603 has been suggested as a possibility.

Leeds City in England

Leeds is a city in West Yorkshire, England. Leeds has one of the most diverse economies of all the UK's main employment centres and has seen the fastest rate of private-sector jobs growth of any UK city. It also has the highest ratio of private to public sector jobs of all the UK's Core Cities, with 77% of its workforce working in the private sector. Leeds has the third-largest jobs total by local authority area, with 480,000 in employment and self-employment at the beginning of 2015. Leeds is ranked as a gamma world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network. Leeds is the cultural, financial and commercial heart of the West Yorkshire Urban Area. Leeds is served by four universities, and has the fourth largest student population in the country and the country's fourth largest urban economy.

Tate Wilkinson English actor

Tate Wilkinson, English actor and manager.

“For really Wilkinson,” said he, “I have given the Jordan but three lessons, and she is so adroit at receiving my instructions, that I declare she repeats the character as well as Mrs. Cibber ever did”’ [6]

Though no specific dates can be sourced, Dora is believed to have performed her prized role as Lady Teazle in Sheridan's The School for Scandal before she arrived in London. [7] In 1785, she made her first London appearance at Drury Lane as Peggy in A Country Girl . The Morning post the next morning reported her performance as such:

'Nature has endowed her with talents sufficient to combat and excel her competitors in the same walk. Her person and manner are adapted for representing the peculiarities of youthful innocence and frivolity; and her tones of voice are audible and melodious.'. [8]

Mrs. Jordan in her role of Peggy in "The Country Girl", David Garrick's tamer adaption of Wycherley's earlier, more scandalous play "The Country Wife". Portrait of Mrs. Jordan, as Peggy (4673969).jpg
Mrs. Jordan in her role of Peggy in "The Country Girl", David Garrick's tamer adaption of Wycherley's earlier, more scandalous play "The Country Wife".

Gradually, it came to be recognised that her talent lay in comedy. She was acclaimed for her "naturalness" on stage, and called a 'child of nature', [9] a slightly derogatory term for someone who is of illegitimate birth. [9] Audiences also enjoyed her performances in breeches roles [10] such as Viola in Twelfth Night, [6] Sir Harry Wildair in The Constant Couple and William in Rosina . "

Despite her being 'the most admired comic actress of her time', [5] Jordan was also a competent Shakespearean and tragic actress, playing the roles of Ophelia, Imogen in Cymbeline and Zara by Adam Hill. [6] When she first auditioned for Wilkinson, when she was asked whether she preferred 'tragedy, comedy or opera?' she answered "All" [11]

Her engagement at Drury Lane lasted until 1809, and she played a large variety of parts. During the rebuilding of Drury Lane she played at the Haymarket; she transferred her services in 1811 to Covent Garden. Here, in 1814, she made her last appearance on the London stage, and the following year, at Margate, retired altogether. [12]

During her time on the stage she wrote the popular song The Bluebells of Scotland, published under her name around 1800. [13]

In 1815, the renowned theatre critic, William Hazlitt, wrote:

'Mrs Jordan's excellences were all natural to her. It was not as an actress, but as herself, that she charmed everyone. Nature had formed in her most prodigal humour; and when nature is in the humour to make a woman all that is delightful, she does it most effectually. . . Mrs Jordan, the child of nature, whose voice was a cordial to the heart, because it came from it, rich, full, like the luscious juice of the rich grape.' [9]

Early Relationships

She had an affair with her first manager, Richard Daly, the manager of the Theatre Royal, Cork, who was married, and had an illegitimate child with him:

In England, she had a short-lived affair with an army lieutenant, Charles Doyne, who proposed marriage. But she turned him down and went to work for the theatre company operated by Tate Wilkinson. It was at this point she adopted the name "Mrs. Jordan" – a reference to her escape across the Irish Sea, likened to the River Jordan. [15] She appeared at Wilkinson's York Circuit theatres, including The Theatre, Leeds, where she complained of uncomfortable working conditions. [16]

Shortly after her affair with Wilkinson was over, she began an affair with George Inchbald, the male lead in the Wilkinson company. According to Claire Tomalin, Dorothea's biographer, Dorothea would have married Inchbald, so greatly was she in love with him, but he never asked. Brokenhearted, she left him in 1786 to begin an affair with Sir Richard Ford, a police magistrate and a lawyer. She moved in with Ford when he promised to marry her. They had three illegitimate children: [17]

She left him to begin her affair with the Duke of Clarence, once she realized that Ford was never going to marry her. [19] Jordan's children were placed under the care of her sister Hester, who moved with them to a house in Brompton. By a settlement dated 4 November 1791, Jordan transferred all her savings to Ford and Hester for the maintenance and education of the children; in addition, she allowed them an annual payment and granted Hester an allowance for her services. [20] [21]

Relationship with William IV

Pretty, witty and intelligent, Jordan soon came to the attention of wealthy men. She became the mistress of William, Duke of Clarence, later King William IV, in 1791, living with him at Bushy House, [22] and seemed to have not bothered herself with politics or the political intrigues that often went on behind the scenes in royal courts. Together they had at least ten illegitimate children, all of whom took the surname FitzClarence:

Later life

In 1811, when she and the Duke separated, she was given a yearly stipend by him and custody of their daughters while he retained custody of their sons. Part of her stipend included money for the care of the children with a stipulation stating that in order to continue receiving that money, and retain custody, Dorothea must not return to the stage. In 1814, when a son-in-law became heavily in debt, Dorothea returned to the stage to help pay off that debt. Once the Duke received word of this, he removed their remaining daughters from her care, and took back her yearly stipend. To avoid creditors, she fled to France in 1815 and died at Saint-Cloud, near Paris, in poverty just a year later.

Notable Descendants

Her notable descendants include:


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  1., Blog Design and Build by Duncan Marshall and Conrad Barrett-Freeman at Chroma Design. "Exclusive - Museum swap-shop - Art History News - by Bendor Grosvenor".
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Anthony J. Camp: Ancestry of Mrs Jordan [retrieved 4 December 2014].
  3. 1918-2014,, Highfill, Philip H., Jr. (Philip Henry),. A biographical dictionary of actors, actresses, musicians, dancers, managers & other stage personnel in London, 1660-1800. Volume 10, M'Intosh to Nash. Burnim, Kalman A.,, Langhans, Edward A.,. Carbondale. ISBN   9780585030326. OCLC   44959689.
  4. James, Boaden,. The Life of Mrs Jordan, Volume 2 : Including Original Private Correspondence, and Numerous Anecdotes of her Contemporaries. Cambridge. ISBN   9781139452915. OCLC   967377202.
  5. 1 2 Claire., Tomalin, (2012). Mrs Jordan's profession. London: Penguin. ISBN   9780241963296. OCLC   779244420.
  6. 1 2 3 Fiona., Ritchie,. Women and Shakespeare in the eighteenth century. New York, NY. ISBN   9781107046306. OCLC   855957476.
  7. Piozzi, Hester Lynch. The Piozzi letters : correspondence of Hester Lynch Piozzi, 1784-1821 (formerly Mrs. Thrale). Bloom, Edward A. (Edward Alan), 1914-1994., Bloom, Lillian D. Newark: University of Delaware Press. ISBN   0874131154. OCLC   17441329. ©1989-©2002
  8. Molloy, J. Fitzgerald (April 1892). "Dorothy Jordan". The English Illustrated Magazine. 103: 567–571 via ProQuest.
  9. 1 2 3 Perry, Gillian (11 October 2004). "Staging Gender and "Hairy Signs": Representing Dorothy Jordan's Curls". Eighteenth-Century Studies. 38 (1): 145–163. doi:10.1353/ecs.2004.0061. ISSN   1086-315X.
  10. Denlinger, Elizabeth Campbell (2005), Before Victoria: extraordinary women of the British romantic era, Columbia University Press, ISBN   978-0-231-13630-3
  11. Boaden, James (1831). The life of Mrs. Jordan: including original private correspondence, and numerous anecdotes of her contemporaries. London: Edward Bull, Holles Street.
  12. Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Jordan, Dorothea"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 508–509.
  13. British Musical Biography: A Dictionary of Musical Artists, Authors, and Composers Born in Britain and Its Colonies, James Duff Brown and Stephen Samuel Stratton, Birmingham, England: S. S. Stratton, 1897, p. 225
  14. Separated from her husband, she became an actress like her mother and died (probably from an overdose of laudanum) in America in 1821. Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim, Edward A. Langhans: A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and others Stage Personnel in London, vol. 8: Hough to Keyse, p. 259.; Wendy C. Nielsen: Women Warriors in Romantic Drama, Chapter IV, p. 112. [retrieved 4 December 2014]; Portrait of Mrs. Frances Bettesworth Alsop, ca. 1817 in: Library of University of Illinois at Urbania-Champaign. [retrieved 5 December 2014].
  15. "Information on Bland, Dorothea".
  16. Leodis, Discovering Leeds: The Theatre Retrieved 17 December 2013
  17. Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim, Edward A. Langhans: A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and others Stage Personnel in London, vol. 8: Hough to Keyse, p. 259. [retrieved 4 December 2014].
  18. According to Anthony Camp, she was a mistress of the Duke of Clarence for some time after her marriage. Anthony J. Camp: Royal Mistresses and Bastards, No. 15-24 [retrieved 5 December 2014].
  19. pg. 90 & 91, Ladies of the Bedchamber, Dennis Friedman
  20. The Encyclopedia of Romantic Literature, p. 693. [retrieved 4 December 2014].
  21. Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim, Edward A. Langhans: A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and others Stage Personnel in London, vol. 8: Hough to Keyse, p. 253. [retrieved 4 December 2014].
  22. Google Books The Story of Dorothy Jordan Armstrong, Clare & Jerrold, Bridgman. Ayer Publishing, 1969. ISBN   0-405-08672-5, ISBN   978-0-405-08672-4

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