About Flora Elizabeth Rawdon-Hastings
Lady Flora Elizabeth Rawdon-Hastings (11 February 1806 – 5 July 1839) was a British aristocrat and lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent. Her death in 1839 caused a court scandal that gave the Queen a negative image.
Flora was also a poet; her work, Poems by the lady Flora Hastings, was published posthumously by her sister Sophia.
Lady Flora was born to Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings (1754-1826) and his wife Flora Mure-Campbell, 6th Countess of Loudoun (1780-1840). Flora's siblings were:
George Augustus Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 2nd Marquess of Hastings (4 February 1808–13 January 1844)
Sophia Frederica Christina Rawdon-Hastings (1 February 1809–28 December 1859), married John Crichton-Stuart, 2nd Marquess of Bute and had issue
Selina Constance Rawdon-Hastings (1810–8 November 1867), married Charles Henry and had issue
Adelaide Augusta Lavinia Rawdon-Hastings (25 February 1812–6 December 1860), married Sir William Keith Murray, 7th Baronet of Octertyre
Flora was "adored" by her siblings.
The unmarried Lady Flora was allegedly having an affair with John Conroy, the "favourite" and also suspected lover of the Duchess of Kent. The Duchess's daughter, Queen Victoria, detested Conroy passionately. Flora and the Queen were probably hostile and unfriendly toward one another for this reason, and also because Flora disliked the Queen's adored friend and mentor, Baroness Louise Lehzen, as well as the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne.
As the Duchess of Kent's lady in waiting, Hastings was party to Conroy's infamous 'Kensington System' by which he colluded with the Duchess to keep Victoria isolated from her Hanoverian uncles. She may have been involved in Conroy's pernicious and continued attempts to force Victoria to sign an order of Regency, even during a serious illness. For these reasons, the young Victoria hated and suspected Hastings and was open to any accusation that could be laid at the feet of Conroy or his aides. Once she ascended the throne in June, 1837, Victoria made every attempt to keep her mother's household, including Hastings and Conroy, away from her in distant parts of Buckingham Palace. She could not banish them outright, being an unmarried woman at the time, but she kept her mother, Conroy and all persons associated with them as far away from her person as possible. It was only much later in life, after Conroy's death, that Prince Albert was able to effect a reconciliation between the Duchess of Kent and Victoria.
Sometime in 1839, Flora began to experience pain and swelling in her lower abdomen. She visited the Queen's physician, Sir James Clark, Baronet, who could not diagnose her condition without an examination, which Flora refused. He assumed the abdominal growth was pregnancy. Sir James met with Flora twice a week from January 10 to February 16, 1839. Because Flora was unmarried, his suspicions were hushed up. However, Flora's enemies, Baroness Lehzen and the Marchioness of Tavistock (better known as the inventor of afternoon tea) spread the rumor that she was "with child", and eventually Lehzen told Melbourne about her fears. On February 2, the Queen wrote in her journal that she suspected that Conroy, a man whom she loathed intensely, was the father.
The accusations were proven false when Flora finally consented to the physical examination by the royal doctors, who confirmed that she was not pregnant. She did, however, have an advanced, cancerous liver tumor, and had only months left to live. She died in London on July 5. Conroy and her brother, Lord Hastings, stirred up a press campaign against both the Queen and Doctor Clark which attacked them for insulting and disgracing Flora with false rumors and for plotting against her and the entire Hastings family. The campaign also defamed the Queen's "fellow conspirators", Baroness Lehzen and Lady Tavistock, as the guilty parties who had originated the false rumor of pregnancy. These attempts fell far short of their goals of discrediting the Queen and forcing her to appoint Conroy to some post close to her person. Victoria remained adamant that Conroy should never be close to the throne in any fashion. The next year, her marriage and subsequent pregnancy restored her to popular favour.
Lady Flora was buried at her family home, Loudoun Castle. She was 33.
With only two months to live, Lady Flora wrote in 1839 to her mother on the subject of the upcoming Eglinton Tournament, expressing her concern that one of the knights might be killed in the violent sport.
In popular culture
Lady Hastings was portrayed by Irish actress Genevieve O'Reilly in the 2009 film The Young Victoria.
Her line is said to be the legitimate heir to the throne of England: