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Armitstead [née Cane; married name Fox], Elizabeth Bridget (1750–1842), courtesan, was, according to an entry in her journal, born on 11 July 1750. Her parentage, place of birth, and reason for changing her maiden name to Armitstead are unknown, as are the circumstances surrounding her emergence as a prominent courtesan. About 1774 she became the mistress of ...

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Astor [née Langhorne], Nancy Witcher, Viscountess Astor (1879–1964), society hostess and politician, was born at Danville, Virginia, on 19 May 1879, the eighth child in a family of eleven. Her father, Chiswell Dabney Langhorne (1843–1919), a veteran of the American Civil War, had made his fortune in railway construction and bought an estate at ...

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Attlee [née Millar], Violet Helen, Countess Attlee (1895–1965), charity fund-raiser and prime minister’s wife, was born at Heathdown, East Heath Road, Hampstead, on 20 November 1895, the youngest of eleven children of Henry Edward Millar (1856–1912), a commission merchant in import/export trade, and his wife, ...

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Barry, James (c. 1799–1865), army medical officer and transvestite, was probably born Margaret, the youngest daughter of Mrs Mary Ann Bulkley or Bulkeley, the sister of the artist James Barry; her paternity is in doubt. From the age of ten she dressed and presented herself as a man, but the woman who laid out her corpse declared that she was female: 'The Devil, a General,' said the attendant. 'It's a woman. And a woman that has had a child' (...

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Bentinck, (William) John Cavendish-Scott- [formerly Lord John Bentinck], fifth duke of Portland (1800–1879), recluse, son of William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, fourth duke (1768–1854), who in 1795 assumed the additional surname of Scott by royal licence, and Henrietta (d. 1844), eldest daughter and coheir of ...

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Billing, Noel Pemberton (1881–1948), aviator and self-publicist, was born on 31 January 1881 in Hampstead, the youngest child of Charles Eardley Billing, a Birmingham iron-founder, and his wife, Annie Emilia Claridge. He was educated at the high school, Hampstead; Cumming's College, outside Boulogne...

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Blunt, Wilfrid Scawen (1840–1922), hedonist, poet, and breeder of Arab horses, was born at Petworth House, Sussex, on 17 August 1840, the second son of the three children of Francis Scawen Blunt (1790–1842) of Crabbet Park, Poundhill, and Newbuildings Place, Southwater, Sussex, and his wife, ...

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Boulton, (Thomas) Ernest (1847–1904), transvestite, was born at Kings Road, Tottenham, London, on 18 December 1847, the elder of two sons of Thomas Alfred Boulton (1816/17–1887), wine merchant, and his wife, Mary Ann, née Levick (b. 1822/3). From his sixth year he showed an aptitude for playing female characters. He would dress as a parlourmaid, and once waited at table upon his grandmother, who said when he left the room, 'I wonder, having sons, that you have so flippant a girl about you' (...

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Brooks [née Goddard], (Beatrice) Romaine Mary (1874–1970), painter and lesbian icon, was born in a hotel in Rome on 1 May 1874, the third of three children of Major Harry Goddard, army officer, and his wife, Ella Waterman (d. 1902), who were both American citizens. Her father was reputed to be an alcoholic, and her parents divorced not long after her birth. Her mother was very rich, having a number of residences in various European countries. Despite this she seems to have spent little time or money on her two daughters, reserving most of her affection for her sickly and unstable son, ...

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Brummell, George Bryan [known as Beau Brummell] (1778–1840), dandy and socialite, was born on 7 June 1778 in Downing Street, Westminster, the last of three children of William (Billy) Brummell (d. 1794), private secretary to the prime minister, Lord North, and his wife, ...

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Buller, Charles (1806–1848), politician and wit, was born in Calcutta on 6 August 1806, the son of Charles Buller (1774–1848), civil servant in India and politician, and his wife, Barbara Isabella Kirkpatrick (d. 1849), daughter of Major-General William Kirkpatrick of the East India Company...

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Butler, Lady (Charlotte) Eleanor (1739–1829), elder of the two Ladies of Llangollen, was born at Cambrai, the youngest daughter of Walter Butler of Garryricken (1703–1783) and his wife, Eleanor (d. 1794), daughter of Nicholas Morres of Latargh, co. Tipperary. Her father was the only lineal representative of ...

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G. F. R. Barker

revised by David Turner

Capper, Joseph (1726/7–1804), eccentric, was born in Cheshire to unknown parents in humble circumstances. At an early age he travelled to London, and, after serving his apprenticeship to a grocer, set up a shop on his own account in Whitechapel. With good business connections ...

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Carstairs, Joe [formerly Marion Barbara] (1900–1993), heiress and motor-boat racing driver, was born on 1 February 1900 at 115 Park Street, Mayfair, London, the daughter of Albert Joseph Carstairs, a captain in the Royal Irish Rifles, and his wife, (Frances) Evelyn (1872–1921)...

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Cavendish [née Hervey; other married name Foster], Elizabeth Christiana, duchess of Devonshire (1757–1824), society hostess and patron of the arts, was the middle daughter of Frederick Augustus Hervey, fourth earl of Bristol (1730–1803), and his wife, Elizabeth Davers (1730–1800), and was known for most her life as ...

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Cavendish, Louise Frederica Augusta, duchess of Devonshire [née Countess Louise Friederike Auguste von Alten; other married name Louise Frederica Augusta Montagu, duchess of Manchester] (1832–1911), society figure, was born on 15 January 1832, the second of the three daughters of Karl Franz Victor, ...

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Charke [née Cibber; other married name Sacheverell], Charlotte [alias Mr Brown] (1713–1760), actress and transvestite, was born on 13 January 1713, probably at her parents' home in Southampton Street West, London, the twelfth and youngest child of the actor and playwright ...

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Charteris, Francis (c. 1665–1732), gambler and rake, was born in or near Edinburgh, probably about 1665 (some ten years earlier than the 1675 date inferred from the Edinburgh obituary printed in many London newspapers shortly after his death), the son of John Charteris (...

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Charteris [née Wyndham], Mary Constance, countess of Wemyss (1862–1937), hostess, was born on 3 August 1862 at 44 Belgrave Square, London, the eldest of the five children of the Hon. Percy Wyndham (1835–1911), second son of the first Lord Leconfield, and his wife, ...

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Churchill, Gladys Marie Spencer- [née Gladys Marie Deacon], duchess of Marlborough (1881–1977), society beauty, was born on 7 February 1881 at the Hotel Brighton in Paris, the eldest of five children of Edward Parker Deacon of Boston (1844–1901) and his wife, Florence Mary (1859–1918)...