Eliza Courtenay Ellice

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About Eliza Courtenay Ellice


Eliza Courtney (20 February 1792 – 2 May 1859) was the illegitimate daughter of the Whig politician and future Prime Minister Charles Grey by the society beauty Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, while Georgiana was married to William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire.

The Duchess was forced by her husband to relinquish Eliza, shortly after her birth, to be raised by Charles Grey's parents. Eliza learned her biological mother's identity only after the Duchess's death. She named her firstborn daughter Georgiana.

The name Courtney was derived from her maternal grandmother's brother, William Poyntz, having married a co-heiress of the ancient Cornish family of Courtney of Trethurfe and Courtney of Tremeer in 1762.

Eliza Courtney was born in France, in Aix-en-Provence on 20 February 1792. She was brought to Falloden, Northumberland in northern England and adopted by her father's parents, her Grey grandparents. Unlike the natural children of her biological mother's husband, the Duke of Devonshire, Eliza was spared being part of the Devonshire House set in London. Her mother, Georgiana, could not acknowledge her and saw her in secret until her death; several anguish-ridden poems from mother to daughter survive. Two are reproduced below:

And yet remote from public view

A flower there is of timid hue,

Beneath a sacred shade it grows,

But sweet in native fragrance blows.

From storms secure, from tempests free,

But ah! too seldom seen by me.

For scarce permitted to behold

With longing eyes each grace unfold.

My bosom struggles with its pain

And checks the wishes form'd in vain ;

Yet when I perchance supremely blest,

I hold the floweret to my breast,

Enraptur'd watch its purple glow

And blessings (all I have) bestow.

The gentle fragrance soothes my care

And fervent is my humble prayer

That no dread evil may beset

My sweet but hidden violet.

(December 1805) (copied from Lord Bessborough's Georgiana, 1955, appendix IV)

Unhappy child of indiscretion,

poor slumberer on a breast forlorn

pledge of reproof of past transgression

Dear tho' unfortunate to be born

For thee a suppliant wish addressing

To Heaven thy mother fain would dare

But conscious blushes stain the blessing

And sighs suppress my broken prayer

But in spite of these my mind unshaken

In present duty turns to thee

Tho' long repented ne'er forgotten

Thy days shall lov'd and guarded be

And should th'ungenerous world upbraid thee

for mine and for thy father's ill

A nameless mother oft shall assist thee

A hand unseen protect thee still

And tho' to rank and wealth a stranger

Thy life a humble course must run

Soon shalt thou learn to fly the danger

Which I too late have learnt to shun

Meanwhile in these sequested vallies

Here may'st thou live in safe content

For innocence may smile at malice

And thou-Oh ! Thou art innocent

(copied from Foreman, 1998, page 267/8. From: Verses copied by Lady Charlotte Cholomondeley in her common place book, circa 1816. Lady Charlotte (Seymour) was the mother-in-law of Eliza's daughter Georgiana).

Georgiana was allowed to see her daughter occasionally when the Greys brought Eliza to London, and acted as a sort of unofficial godmother.

In 1808, Lady Harriet "Harryo" Cavendish, Eliza's legitimate half-sister, visited the Greys and was dismayed at what she observed:

Eliza is a fine girl, and will, I think, be handsome; but tho' they are kind to her, it goes to my heart to see her—she is so evidently thrown into the background, and has such a look of mortification about her that it is not pleasant, yet he [Charles Grey] seems very fond of her. Lord B. [Harriet's husband] has this moment ask'd me whether she is not the Governess.

Eliza was not informed of her true parentage until after the death of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. The name Courtney was derived from her maternal grandmother's brother, William Poyntz, having married a co-heiress of the ancient Cornish family of Courtney of Trethurfe and Courtney of Tremeer in 1762.


In 1809 her "quasi-sister" (but actual aunt) Lady Hannah Althea Grey, widow of George Edmund Byron Bettesworth, married the Member of Parliament and trader the Rt. Hon. Edward "Bear" Ellice (1783–1863). Five years later, on December 10, 1814 in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, Eliza married Lt. Col. Robert Ellice (1784–1856), a younger brother of her "brother-in-law" Edward Ellice. Their father was the Scots-born Alexander Ellice (1743–1805) of Bath, London and Montreal, a partner in the Schenectady, New York firm of Phyn, Ellice & Co.

In March 1814 Lord Broughton recorded meeting Eliza at dinner and described her as:

the daughter of the late Duchess of Devonshire by Lord Grey, ... a fine girl, sensible and talkative, and easy mannered.

Robert Ellice had been promoted to the military rank of "ensign" on November 8, 1798; to the rank of Captain on May 4, 1801; to Major on May 12, 1808; to Lt. Colonel March 16, 1809; to Colonel August 12, 1819; to Major-General on July 22, 1830; to Lieutenant-General November 23, 1841; to Colonel of the 24th Regiment of Foot (the 2nd Warwickshire) on November 2, 1842; and to General on June 20, 1854. At some point he served in South America and was present at the capture of Buenos Aires.

Ellice was acting Governor-General of Malta for five-and-a-half months, from May 13 to October 27 of the year 1851.

In the 1856 Webster's, he is listed as having a residence at 57 Park Street, Mayfair.


Eliza Courtney, Mrs. Ellice is thought to have had three daughters and two sons.


Her daughter Georgiana was born on October 12, 1817. On November 4, 1846, she married Hugh Horatio Seymour (May 15, 1821 – December 4, 1892). Seymour was the son of Lt. Col. Hugh Henry Seymour [(1790–?); himself son of Admiral Hugh Seymour (1759–1801), who was fifth son of the first Marquess of Hertford] and Charlotte Cholmondeley, daughter of the 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley. [A younger brother of Col. Hugh Seymour was Colonel Sir Horace Seymour (1791-1851), an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales.]

Their grandson was the British Minister in Tehran (1936-1939) and British Ambassador to China (1942-1946), Sir Horace James Seymour, GCMG, CVO (1885-1978). One of Sir Horace's grandsons, James Seymour (1956–), is married to Anya Hindmarch (1968–).


Eliza had another daughter, also named Eliza, the following year, in 1818. This Eliza married Henry Bouverie William Brand (1814–1892) in 1838. After a distinguished speakership of the House of Commons, Eliza's husband was created Viscount Hampden; later still he inherited from his brother the Barony of Dacre, as 23rd in line. Descendants include the present Lord Monk Bretton; Sarah, Duchess of York; and the late Viscount Hampden. Eliza Ellice Brand died on March 8, 1899 at Pelham House, Lewes.


Alexandra married the Rev. H. Harvey.


Eliza's first son, Robert, was born on January 1, 1816. In March 1853, he married Eglantine Charlotte Louisa Balfour (died April 18, 1907), third daughter of Lt-General Robert Balfour of Balbirnie. Robert Ellice died on December 19, 1858.

In 1880 his son, Major Edward Charles Ellice, DSO (1917/8), J.P., M.P. (1903-6, Liberal, St. Andrews Boroughs), (1858-1934) succeeded his first cousin once removed, Edward Ellice II, to the Ellice estate at Invergarry, Inverness-shire.

In April 1889 Major Edward Charles Ellice married another first cousin once removed, Margaret Georgiana Freeman Thomas (died 1929), daughter of Frederick Freeman Thomas by his wife Mabel Brand, daughter of the 1st Viscount Hampden. Like him Margaret Georgiana was a descendant of Eliza Courtney, through Eliza's second daughter Eliza. Her brother was Freeman Freeman-Thomas, Viceroy of India and was created 1st Marquess of Willingdon.

Their fifth son, Russell (1902- 1989) succeeded his father, his four elder brothers having perished young: three of them in the 1914-1918 war. [One was in the Cameron Highlanders (killed in action), one was in the Grenadiers (killed in action) and the third was lost on HMS Bulwark.]


Eliza's second son, Charles Henry, was born in 1823 in Florence. Charles followed his father into the 24th Regiment of Foot and was sometime Quartermaster-General and then Adjutant-General to the Forces. He married Louisa Caroline Lambton, a daughter of William Henry Lambton and niece of the 1st Earl of Durham. Thom's Upper Ten Thousand for 1876 lists him as of Horningsheath, Bury St Edmunds. He was subject of Vanity Fair treatment, October 20, 1877. Lt. Gen. Sir Charles Henry Ellice, KCB died in 1888.


She died, a widow, in Norwood, Surrey, aged 67.

"Norwood in Surrey" in this case is Upper Norwood; South Norwood; West Norwood; or Sydenham.

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Eliza Courtenay Ellice's Timeline

February 20, 1792
Montpellier, Aix-en-Provence, France
January 1, 1816
May 10, 1823
Florence, Italy
September 30, 1825
May 2, 1859
Age 67
Norwood, Surrey, England
Auchterless, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, United Kingdom