Lavinia Ryves

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Lavinia Ryves
Princess Lavinia of Cumberland (disputed)
Born(1797-03-16)16 March 1797
Died7 December 1871(1871-12-07) (aged 74)
Spouse Anthony Ryves (m.1822; div.1841)
Father John Thomas Serres
Mother Olivia Serres

Lavinia Jannetta Horton Ryves, née Lavinia Serres (16 March 1797 – 7 December 1871), was a British woman claiming to be a member of the British royal family, calling herself "Princess Lavinia of Cumberland".

Born in Liverpool, England, Lavinia was the daughter of Olivia Serres and John Thomas Serres. Olivia Serres gained notoriety by claiming to be the daughter of Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn, a younger brother of King George III of the United Kingdom. In 1822 Lavinia married Anthony Ryves, a portrait painter. They were divorced in 1841.

Liverpool City and Metropolitan borough in England

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Olivia Serres British artist and imposter

Olivia Serres, known as Olive, was a British painter and writer, born at Warwick. She is also known as an English impostor, who claimed the title of Princess Olive of Cumberland.

John Thomas Serres was an English maritime painter who enjoyed significant success, including exhibiting extensively at the Royal Academy, and was for a time Maritime Painter to King George III.

In 1844 "Princess Lavinia" tried to take Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington to court for having "overlooked", as George III's executor, a bequest of £15,000 to Olivia. In 1850 Lavinia published a pamphlet requesting financial aid from Queen Victoria.

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington 18th and 19th-century British soldier and statesman

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, was an Anglo-Irish soldier and Tory statesman who was one of the leading military and political figures of 19th-century Britain, serving twice as Prime Minister. His victory against Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 puts him in the first rank of Britain's military heroes.

In 1866, aged sixty-nine, Princess Lavinia asked the Court of Probate to declare her the legitimate granddaughter of the Duke of Cumberland and award her the £15,000 bequest "left" by George III. In the process of the 1866 trial, Lavinia produced several remarkable documents attesting to her claims, and a handwriting expert testified to the authenticity of George III's and James Wilmot's signatures. Testimony was introduced that in fact the Duke of Kent had supported Olivia financially, and had spoken of Olivia as "my cousin Serres", apparently believing her story.

The Court of Probate was created by the Court of Probate Act 1857, which transferred the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts in testamentary matters to the new court so created.

James Wilmot clergyman, scholar

James Wilmot was an English clergyman and scholar from Warwickshire. During his lifetime, he was apparently unknown beyond his immediate circle.

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn Prince of Great Britain

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, was the fourth son and fifth child of Britain's king, George III, and the father of Queen Victoria.

The trial was most considered remarkable, perhaps, for the claims made by Dr. Walter Smith, Lavinia's barrister, that George III had been privately married to a Quaker, Hannah Lightfoot, and that in consequence thereof, neither George IV nor Queen Victoria had any right to the throne.

Hannah Lightfoot English Quaker

Hannah Lightfoot the 'Fair Quaker' who is said to have been the first wife of George III of the United Kingdom.

Lavinia's case, however, quickly ran into difficulties: in some of the submitted documents, George III had "signed" his name as "George Guelph"; in others, William Pitt and Lord Brook had "signed" as earls before they had in fact become earls.

The court found that Lavinia was the legitimate daughter of John and Olivia Serres and was not the granddaughter of the Duke of Cumberland. The court did not prosecute Lavinia for forgery: Lavinia maintained she believed in good faith that the documents left her by Olivia were genuine. It is thought that the documents were in fact forged at the behest of Olivia, rather than Lavinia, perhaps by William FitzClarence, Olivia's boyfriend, who had calligraphic talents.

Lavinia continued to write pamphlets in support of her claims, and her case was reheard by the House of Lords. She died with her claims unrecognized.

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